WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 1963 (UPI)-President Kennedy asked Congress Thursday for a series of new laws to protect Negroes from "the cruel disease of discrimination" in voting, schooling, and other walks of life. The President outlined his proposals in a 6,000-word special message, his first on civil rights. The message hailed the Administration's non-legislative accomplishments in the past two years.
He called for laws to speed consideration of voting suits by Negroes, provide them the ballot while their suits are pending, guarantee them the same voting tests as whites, and presume they are literate if they have completed the sixth grade.
Kennedy also asked for federal technical and financial assistance to school districts which need help to desegregate. He requested four more years of operation plus expanded powers for the U. S. Civil Rights Commission.
Describing these as "a list of priorities," Kennedy said he knew his proposed and past actions "do not constitute a final answer to the problems of race discrimination in the country." He promised to sign, if enacted, any "other measures directed toward these same goals."
"The program outline in this message should not provide the occasion for sectional bitterness," Kennedy said. "No state or section of this nation can pretend a self-righteous role, for every area has its own civil rights problems. Nor should the basic elements of this program be imperiled by partisanship."
The President's failure to ask for much new civil rights legislation until now has aroused criticism from some Negro leaders and some Republicans, including New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller.
Kennedy insisted that, acting on its own authority, his Administration in 1961 and 1962 made "more progress...in securing the civil rights of all Americans than in any comparable period of our history."