Opposition to the nomination of conservative Judge Robert H. Bork to the United States Supreme Court has become one of the main focuses of the 78th annual NAACP convention. ``The Supreme Court is too important to our hope of equality and justice to sit idly by and watch a whole line of civil rights liberties be threatened by [this] appointment. ... Therefore we will ask the Senate to reject the nomination,'' said Benjamin L. Hooks, the executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, before the opening meeting yesterday.
President Reagan last week nominated Judge Bork, who currently sits on the US Court of Appeals in Washington, to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Lewis Powell Jr. Justice Powell was the swing vote in a number of 5-to-4 decisions, including several upholding affirmative action.
``To replace a swing vote with a dyed-in-the-wool conservative is unacceptable. He would in effect wipe out all of our gains of the past 30 years,'' Mr. Hooks said.
``We're trying to contact all the senators -- some once, some 10 or 12 times,'' he said. ``It's old-fashioned, grass-roots lobbying.''
The convention also will feature addresses by at least four Democrats and possibly one Republican who are running for their parties' 1988 presidential nominations.
Hooks said the group invited the Rev. Jesse Jackson as a civil rights leader and former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt because of the controversy in his state over whether to observe the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. as a state holiday. Mr. Babbitt's Republican successor, Evan Mecham, canceled the state holiday.
Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and Rep. Richard Gephardt (D) of Missouri were also scheduled to appear, and Rep. Jack Kemp (R) of New York was a possibility, Hooks said Sunday.
The list of other speakers to the convention includes Dr. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, basketball star Julius Erving, US Surgeon General C.Everett Koop, and White House chief of staff Howard Baker Jr.
Also on hand will be another civil rights leader, John E. Jacob, president of the National Urban League.
Hooks, who has headed the NAACP for almost 10 years, said events since the group's last convention show that ``racism is one of the enduring legacies of America.
``Events in Forsyth County in Georgia, Howard Beach, and the making a folk hero out of Bernhard Goetz reveal a racism that's very close to the surface. The goal of the organization has never changed: the elimination of racism in America. But the work is never done.''
Also an issue at the NAACP's convention this year is the lack of blacks in the upper echelons of professional sports. Hooks has praised major league baseball's policy of developing affirmative action plans, and local NAACP branches have been conferring with teams in pro baseball, football, and basketball.
The convention will also take up some ``nontraditional'' civil rights issues, such as black-on-black crime, teen-age pregnancy, and substance abuse, Hooks said.
The convention runs through Thursday.