03/15/06 — Say it’s not true: Incredible story about Claude Allen

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Say it’s not true: Incredible story about Claude Allen

For those across the nation who have had the opportunity to observe him, Claude Allen has been among the most admired young men in America.

He had been president of the student body at Sanderson High School in Raleigh. He went on to become a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Later he received a law degree from Duke.

Claude Allen was recognized as a straight shooter, possessed of genuine goodness, honest to the core, well-spoken and mannerly.

Former Congressman Bill Cobey met him when they attended Chapel Hill Bible Church — Allen was a student of the Bible. And Cobey recruited him to serve as his campaign spokesman during his 1982 campaign for Congress.

That was a unique role since Cobey was a Republican and Claude Allen is black. With all his many other traits, Allen also is responsibly conservative.

He later served as a spokesman for Sen. Jesse Helms. They sometimes disagreed on issues but have always maintained a tremendous respect for each other. In 1985, Allen served as counsel for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Allen’s rise seemed boundless. He served as deputy secretary of th U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and was selectd by President as his chief domestic policy adviser.

An apparently indefatigable worker, Allen was at his White House office by 5 a.m. and worked on into the night. But he recently expressed to his old friend Bill Cobey the difficulty he experienced trying to find quality time with his family.

Last month, Claude Allen resigned from the highest staff position held by any black in the White House itself. The reason: He wanted to spend more time with his family.

In recent days, a shocking, unbelievable story broke.

Maryland officers had charged Claude Allen with engaging in schemes stealing a variety of items — some paltry — from Target and Hecht department stores. A total of some $5,000 was said to have been involved, with some items valued at only $2.50.

Authorities said he would purchase items, deliver them to his vehicle and later return with the receipts, pick up identical items and “turn them in” to get his money back.

President Bush expressed his shock and sadness. Nothing has been proven, of course. And the president noted that “if the allegations prove true, something went terribly wrong in Claude Allen’s life and that is really sad.”

Those of us who have known this bright young man and followed his meteoric career share the president’s view — and his sadness. And hope that somehow there might be an explanation. And forgiveness.

Published in Editorials on March 15, 2006 9:58 AM