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in D. n”l· . iIIICU I t Ro!e at White HoLis
Sta, Siar! Writer
Stephen who?
Stephen Pollak, that’s who.
A Jot of people were asking
this question and getting, just
about, this answer last January
when President Johnson announced
the name of the brilliant
young lawyer he appointed
to ,succeed Charles Horsky as
the While House adviser on
National Capital Affairs.
Pollak was unknown to many
1n the confusing array of agencies,
departments and congressional
committees which make
up the government of the District
of Columbia. He was
unkhown also to many outside
this governmental circle who·
make it a point to know what’s
going on in the District.
Nevertheless, those who knew
Pollak before his appointment
as the District’s man in the
White HQttse contend he is the
ideal man for the job.
The 38-yeal’-old attorney
possesses the kind of vit-tues
which produce encomiums from
former bosses who want toindeed,
have to-get things_
done.. Pollak’s jumps from job to
job ·on the establishment ladder
have been both rapid and surefooted.
– East to School
Born to _ a large !amity in the
_ Chicago suburbs, Pollak went
east to school and was Phi Beta
Kappa as· a junior at Dartmouth.
.After three years in the Navy,
during which he served as a
deck officer of a destl’oyer
patrolling waters off Korea,
— Pollak enrolled in law school at
Yale. There, he won the Jewett
Prize for highest grades in his
second year and was managing
editor or the Law Journal.
Good family, good school,
good service, beautiful grades:
When Pollak received his law
degree from Yale in 1956, the
world, in a manner or speaking,
was his.
What he did with it was this:
He joined Covington & Burling,
the Washington law firm or
which Dean Acheson is a partner,
in which there is a surfeit of
bright young lawyers, from
which numerous attorneys have
gradu;ited into important government
Why Washington? Well,
“Steve always had ·a great
interest and desil’e to be in
public. service,” according to
Gerhard Gesell, a C&B partner
with whom Pollak worked
closely for some time. “He told
us that from the beginning . . .
and were w? sorry_to Jose him.”
Plum Job
Pollak left the firm in Novernbc,
·, 1961, to take a plum job in
tne Solicitor Genet.·al’ s office in
the Justice Department. When a
slot becomes available in this
exclusive prese1·ve, the chier
always has a long list of high
caliber, l;iw-review-type ciindi-
‘ dates to choose from. Former
Solicitor Genoral Archibald Cox
picked Pollak from the list, or,
as Cox put it, “I stole him from
Dean Acheson’s law firm.”
Then Pollak served .as legal
counsel to the presidential task
force which shaped legislation
for the war on poverty early in
1964, and, after Congress adopted
the measure, he became first
deputy general counsel at the
Office of Economic Oppor.tLmity.
Not long thereafter, however,
.John Doar,· soft-spoken chief of
the Civil Rights Division in the
Justice Department, Jet it be
known he was in the market for
a firs• assistant. Cox admits that
be had “no Ultle to do with
selli’ng the idea” that Pollak be
brought back to the Justice
Department to fill ,the post.
Pollak served in this important
capacity from March, 1965, until
he was appointed to the President’s
staf? last January.
Combined Qualities
What are the qualities which
tend to extract such rave reviews
from so varied and prestigious
a collection of bosses?
First, there is a well-trained,
precise legal mind. “Pollak,”
. Doar says, “gets a problem and
· analyzes it, and :;011 can d.epcnd
on his analysis.” Second, there
is a capacity to get along with
people and to manipulate bureaucracies.
The two do not
necessarily go together, but
Pollak, Cox remarks, “has the
kind of energy in getting things
done ,you don’t always find in a
good appellate lawyer.”
This, of course, speaks highly
of Pollak’s ability and ambition,
but does not necessarily spell
success in what in many ways is
the most difficult government
assignment he has landed so
far: Tile hours are Jong; the
problems, large; the authority,
small; the penalties for mistakes,
stiff; the criticism, loud;
the aggravations, many. Some
have raised questions about how
welt and how deeply Pollak
knows the problems of the
District and environs.
Does he know enough about
the Dislrict and its needs?
“Yes,” Horsky says. “Steve
took a lot of interest in cornmu.
nity affairs. He knew a lot of
people around the city, just tbe
kind of people he’d have to know
to- do a good job.” Pollak first
met bis predecessor at Covington
& Burling, where Horsky w-as
a partner before accepting the
White House post. Horsky
obviously, was one of Pollak’?
principal boosters for the job:
“Oh, I was all for him.”
“Yes,” says James Banks,
executive director of the United
Planning Organization, Washington’s
anti-poverty agency. “I
knew and worked with him when
he · was with W.P.H.A. (the
Washington Planning and Rous•
ing Association, ,a private,
liberal housing group which a.lso
was a ,training ground for Horsky.)
He’ knows and understands
the great probliims of the District.”
(Pollak, incidentally, at
one point served as president of
W.P.H.A., as had Horsky before
”Yes,” said the Rev. Walter
Fauntroy, chairman or the Coali•
tion of Conscience, “I first met
him when he was with the
W.P.H.A., and he impressed me
at that tlnie with bis sensitivity
to the housing problems of poor
people in general and Negroes
in particular. And he was part,icularly
helpful to me ;vhen he
was with the Justice Department,
during the voting rights
crisis• in Selma.”
“I don’t know him,” says
Julius Hobson, the -di.rector of
ACT who almost is institutionalized
as a militant civil rights
leader in the District. Horsky
was “too cautious” for Hobson,
who says, “Maybe it’s just that
kind or job.”
Started in 1962
The job is ”just that kind.”
When he created the post in the
summer of 1962, President
Kennedy made a point of saying
the job was not to supplant the
District Commissioners, but to
assist them. Nevertheless,
Horsky (he was the first appointee)
drew qt1ite a bit of criticism
in his tenure, much of it emanating
from the District Buildint,;,
to the effect that he was grabbing
the limelight (“He went
around town t<1lking like a
mayor,” on: critic remarked)
and cutting off direct communication
between the District
Commissioners and the White
There are many who feel that
Horsky was unjustly accused in
this respect, that ; in effect
President Kennedy wanted lo use
the post as a platform for ideas
to stir up a ·little activity. And
there are many who feel that
President Johnso11 views differently
both the job and the holder,
emphasizing the· mediating,
and the expediting that’s there
to be done and the information
that’s there to be co)lcc?ed and
passed along. More than one
person suggested that ‘Johnson
explicitly told Pollak to slay
bebinq the scenes. _
Some persons-mostly those
who asked, “Stephen who?” –
viewed Pollak’s appointment,
then, as a conscious effort 011 the
part or the President to change
the nature ?f .the job or simply
to destroy 1t In all but name.
The. President made it clear,
however; he’ll use Pollak’s staff
talents for more than just· the
tangled problems of the District.
Pollak also· was told to “handle
a wide-range of national ur•
ban affairs, working with Sec- –
retary of Housing and Urban
Development Robert Weaver.”
Secretary Weaver said last
– week that though “it hasn’t
quite jelled as yet, it’s evolv•
ing,” -and that Pollak most
likely will be the White House
in this field.
Out of His Way
In any event, Pollak is going
out of his way not to open himself
to the kind of carping
criticism which seems to be
endemic in the District’s compli·
cated governmental arrangement
where big job titles are
easy to find and real authority,
much more diffic11lt. Last week,
for example, Pollak was scien
slipping unobtrusively into a
House District subcommittee
hearing. He sat quietly with
other spectators, almost unnoticed,
and observed as .Walter
Tobriner, president of the
District Board of Commissioners,
· testified – on the District
Crime Commission report.
In refusing to grant an interview
to this reporter, Pollak
said: “It’s just how I conceive of
my responsibilities. I’m to
advise the President and I don’t
think that part of my responsibilities
are to be a public figure.”
End of interview.
“It’s a difficult thing to walk
into all of a sudden,” Horsky
remarks. “It’s one of those sixdays-
a-weck, lo-to-12-hours-aday
type job$.” Rorsky “sort of
tapered off” on the joh, he says,
helping Pollak to le.Jrn his way
around while he, Horsky, gotThe Sunday Star
Washington, D.C., March 26, 1967

into the swing of private
law practice.
First Big Test
One of the things Pollak
walked into all of a sudden is the
PrcsidenVs plan {or reorganizing
the District government,
probably. the most complicated,
delicate am! politically hot
problem to come up in tbe
District since the struggle over
home rule in 1965.
· The plan calling for replacing
the three District Commissioners
with a_ single maym·-commissioner
and nine-member council,
first was oumned in a special
mes.sage to the mu on Feb. 27,
and it can be assumed Horsky
did a Jot of the spadework on the
message. The; proposal cannot
be changed by Congress because
it comes under the President’s
power to reorganize the executive
branch. Thus an objection
on even the most picayune of
points by a key man in Congress
could mean defeat for the entire
rneasure-allcl there have been
objections on points more than
Formal submission of the plan
to Congress · was expected
sevel’al weeks ago, but the bill
. has yet to ,arrive on the Hill. The
White House, obviously, is
having its share of trouble
1 getting the measure into shape .
. The c;oming struggle over
,. !”eOl’ganization will be a genuine
· · time o! trial for Stephen Pollak.
For the rest, the issues one
gets involved in are as numer-
‘ ous and as perplexing as the
problems whicll confront any
major city today, “multiplied by
six,” Horsky remarks. The
• · mulliplier factor, it has been
noted, is that frequently ‘in the
District it’s less a question of
getting the man who can do it to
do it, but of persuading the man
who can stop it not to stop it.
Obviously, the job calls for a
tactician who is tactful in high
degree, a person with iron
nerves, ·a resolute constitution
and thick skin, someone wbo is
relaxed,· generous, brilliant,
persuasive, committed, and,
perhaps, loving, kind and good.
Stephen ,J. Pollak is not THAT
man, but then, nobody is.
Family Man
Lawyers in C&S, the Solicitor
General’s Office and the
Civil Rights Division, civil rights
le.iders, and community volunteers
who worked with Pollak
before he accepted the present
job are convinced Pollak has, in·
reasonable mixture, the things
the job requires. They say he is
a skillful politician-some said .
“careful” and some said “cau’
tious”-a good diplomat, a cool
head, pleasant, serious capable,
diligent, and, •as one female
wbo worked with him on a community
organization put, “a real
sweet guy.”
A skier and a family man,
Pollak often packs up his whole
brood (Linda, 12, David, 11,
Roger, 7, E’ta, 5, and wife, the
former Ruth Barbara Schelnfeld)
and heads north dm·ing the
snow season. Horsky’s incredible
assortment of pipes ;ire gone
from the first-floor co,ner omcc
in the Executive Office Building
(“nice.st office in Washington,
ex, cept for the President’s,”
Horsky says). Pollak has replaced
them with drawings bis 1 kids made i11 school.
The family lives on the tree- ,
. lined streets of Cleveland Park,
in a two-story stucco home · ·
at 3314 Newark St. NW, and has
lived there for 10 years, since
Pollak joined C&B.
Pollak has been on tae job for
two months, too little time to
evaluate his effectiveness. The ·
point is that to the Democratic
establishment and liberal cornmtinity
in Washington, Pollak
believes in the right things, and
furthermore, he has that impressive
legal and administrative
background. Those who
don’t know him, and those
experienced in the ways of the
District, are wailing and watch- .
ing with interest. !