NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nicholas Katzenbach, a civil rights champion whose role in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations helped shape domestic and foreign policy in the 1960s, has died at the age of 90.
Katzenbach's alma mater, Princeton University, said he died at his home in Skillman, New Jersey, on Tuesday.
Katzenbach rose to become U.S. Attorney General under President Lyndon Johnson, but made perhaps his biggest mark earlier in a 1963 confrontation with Alabama Governor George Wallace, who was trying to stop two black students, James Hood and Vivian Malone, from entering the University of Alabama.
As deputy attorney general, Katzenbach - surrounded by television cameras and flanked by federal marshals - read a statement from President John F. Kennedy demanding that the two students be admitted. It was the tensest moment of a face-off that became known as the "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door."
Katzenbach eventually escorted both Hood and Malone into the university.
He also served as an adviser in the Kennedy administration on a number of foreign policy fronts, including Vietnam, the Cuban missile crisis and the Bay of Pigs.
He later sought to have an independent commission established to look into the Kennedy assassination.
"Throughout one of the most challenging and consequential eras in American history, his extraordinary talents - and dedicated leadership of the Department of Justice - helped to guide our nation forward from the dark days of segregation and to secure the successful passage of the landmark Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
"Although Nick Katzenbach will be sorely missed, there is much to celebrate in the life he lived, in the example he set, and in the inspiration he will continue to provide - for me, for my colleagues across the Department of Justice, and for the nation he was so proud to serve," Holder said.
Katzenbach was born January 17, 1922 in Philadelphia to a politically connected family. His father served as the Attorney General of New Jersey and his mother was the president of the New Jersey State Board of Education for a decade.
After graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, Katzenbach enrolled in Princeton to study public affairs. Before graduating, however, he joined the Army Air Force to work aboard B-25 bombers during World War Two.
In 1943, his plane was shot down and he was held as a prisoner of war in Germany for more than a year.
Later, after receiving his diploma from Princeton, he attended Yale Law School and was selected as a Rhodes scholar. He joined the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s.
During his time in government, Katzenbach served as assistant attorney general, deputy attorney general, attorney general and undersecretary of state.
(Reporting by Paul Thomasch; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Christopher Wilson)
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