An exhaustive and informative biography of a previously neglected Supreme Court justice, written by one his former clerks. Jeffries (Law/Univ. of Virginia) offers a voluminous review of the life and career of Justice Powell, once called the most powerful man in America because of his position as a moderate swing vote on the high court during a turbulent period in its history. Born early in the century to one of Virginia's first families, Powell was reared in relative comfort and attended the best schools, although his father was disappointed by his choice of the local Washington and Lee over Harvard and insisted he get a post- graduate degree at the Ivy League school. His Baptist upbringing deeply affected his youth and stayed with him throughout his life. He went on to become a very successful attorney with a prestigious Virginia law firm; not until he was 64, an age when most are considering retirement, was Powell persuaded to accept nomination to the Supreme Court. During his tenure, he was intimately involved in cases dealing with such important issues as racial segregation (called by the author a ``hard-line moderate,'' he remained a staunch opponent of court-ordered busing), abortion (he was a strong proponent of Roe v. Wade and the right of privacy), and the White House Watergate tapes, a decision in which he found with the majority against the man who appointed him to the bench but whose scope and application he successfully argued should be limited. He retired in 1987. A fascinating glimpse inside the sometimes arcane and always political workings of the US Supreme Court and one of its influential members.
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