Ralph Boyd, past moderator of First Church UCC in Ipswich, Mass., has been nominated by President Bush to head the Justice Department's civil rights division. Boyd, a former federal prosecutor, has not prosecuted many civil rights cases but is well-known as a champion for equal protection and community activism.
Before he became a prosecutor, Boyd worked on several civil rights cases in Boston, including one that resulted in a landlord being sentenced to spend nights in his own dilapidated building. He has served on the Diversity Advisory Board of the Massachusetts governor, Paul Cellucci. Boyd is also a principal member of the Ten Point Coalition, a group run by black ministers in Boston that lets black professionals serve as mentors to young black men.
If confirmed, Boyd would be the third senior black official in the Justice Department, along with the nominees for deputy attorney general and assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust division.
"I grew up in the civil rights movement," says Boyd. "I have a firm grasp on the weight of those issues."
Many African-American leaders are skeptical of his stance on civil rights issues, and reaction to the conservative Republican's nomination has received a muted response from the black community, observers say.
"I am a good listener, and I am sure that if there are areas of discussion [within the black community] where there are respectful differences, then I am open to more discussion," says Boyd. "In fact, I am one of those folks that, after giving someone a good listen, may be persuaded to change my mind."