John Roberts to Bob Jones: “Go Soak Your Head”

The likely next Supreme had limited patience with the former president of my alma mater:

The young lawyer in 1983 also showed his exasperation with a “petulant” Bob Jones III, president of the ultra-conservative Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C.

The school had recently had its tax-exempt status revoked because of its racial policies.

And Jones was rebuffed by the administration when he sought help in arranging an extended visa for an Asian man who had been a professor at a bible college and ministered to the poor in Birmingham, Ala. Roberts cautioned against White House involvement, drafting a response for Fielding that said it was “established White House policy” not to intervene on behalf of private parties in such matters, in part to “maintain public confidence in the impartial administration of the laws.”

Jones sent an angry response to Fielding. “I am sorry that once again the White House has shown itself totally insensitive to the interests of Fundamental Christians who put Mr. Reagan there. … The greatest human rights violations taking place in America at this hour are being directed against Fundamental Bible-believing Christians, and they are taking place by the bureaucracy under the Reagan Administration. Believe me,” Jones added, “this has not gone unnoticed by that sizable voting block to whom Mr. Reagan owes so much.”

Fielding forwarded the letter to Roberts, who responded acerbically in a memo to his boss on Jan. 4, 1984:

“The audacity of Jones’ reply is truly remarkable, given the political costs this Administration has incurred in promoting the interests of Fundamental Christians in general and Bob Jones University in particular. A restrained reply to his petulant paranoia is attached for your review, telling Jones, in essence, to go soak his head.”

Update: more on Roberts’ comments here.

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