Charles H. Houston   1 comment

Charles Hamilton Houston (September 3, 1895 – April 22, 1950) was a prominent African American lawyer, Dean of Howard University Law School, and NAACP Litigation Director who played a significant role in dismantling the Jim Crow laws, which earned him the title The Man Who Killed Jim Crow. He is also well known for having trained future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.[1]

Houston was born in Washington, D.C. His father worked as a lawyer. Houston started at Amherst College in 1911, was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society,[2] and graduated as valedictorian in 1915. He returned to D.C. to teach at Howard University. As the U.S. entered World War I, Houston joined the then racially segregated U. S. Army as an officer and was sent to France. He returned to the U.S. in 1919, and began attending Harvard Law School. He was a member of the Harvard Law Review and graduated cum laude.

Going on to become known as “The Man Who Killed Jim Crow.”[3] he played a role in nearly every civil rights case before the Supreme Court between 1930 and Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Houston’s plan to attack and defeat Jim Crow segregation by demonstrating the inequality in the “separate but equal” doctrine from the Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision as it pertained to public education in the United States was the masterstroke that brought about the landmark Brown decision.

[edit] Legacy

Houston was posthumously awarded the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal in 1950 and, in 1958, the main building of the Howard University School of Law was dedicated as Charles Hamilton Houston Hall. His significance became more broadly known through the success of Thurgood Marshall and after the 1983 publication of Genna Rae McNeil’s Groundwork: Charles Hamilton Houston and the Struggle for Civil Rights.

Houston is the person for whom the Charles Houston Bar Association and the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School—which opened in the fall of 2005—are named. In addition, there is a professorship at Harvard Law named after him; Elena Kagan, formerly the Dean of Harvard Law School and now an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was the Charles Hamilton Houston Professor of Law.

Houston was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. In 1991, Barack Obama, then the editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Review, appeared in a minute long infomercial to commemorate Houston. Obama would go on to become the nation’s first African-American President of the United States [4]

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Charles Hamilton Houston on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[5]

The C.H. Houston apartment building, formerly owned by Howard University, at 1712 16th St NW, Washington, D.C. was named after Charles Hamilton Houston.

The Washington Bar Association annually awards the Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit to an individual who has advanced the cause of Houstonian jurisprudence.


Posted February 17, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Uncategorized

One response to “Charles H. Houston

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