at the Justice Department. Lynch is currently a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Power Play: Lynch served on the trial team in United States v. Volpe, involving the sexual assault of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima by New York City police officers.
William (Billy) Martin
Career Highlights: Martin’s civil and criminal practice is broad in scope, from internal corporate investigations to police brutality allegations. Previously, the Howard Law graduate held senior managerial and supervisory positions at the Department of Justice, overseeing major political and organized crime grand jury investigations. His client list has boasted Monica Lewinsky and the Chandra Levy family. Before entering private practice, Martin had an extensive public service career.
Power Play: Martin was paid over $1 million for negotiating two landmark settlements to help improve community-police relations in Cincinnati.
The contributions of black lawyers have been etched into the history books of American law since the 1800s. There were men and women such as John Rock, the first African American attorney to practice before the Supreme Court, and Charlotte E. Ray, the first African American female lawyer to pass the bar in the U.S. This page pays homage to a select few contemporary African American legal history makers.
As the first black solicitor general and Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall is one of the most celebrated figures in the history of civil rights in America. Along with his mentor Charles Hamilton Houston (the first black lawyer to win a case before the Supreme Court), Marshall, who served as a justice for 24 years, developed a strategy for eradicating segregation in schools that culminated in the landmark 1954 case Brown v. The Board of Education.
J.L. Chestnut Jr.: Chestnut founded Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders, Pettaway, & Campbell, the largest black law firm in Alabama. The Howard University graduate is acclaimed in legal circles for his lifelong battles against segregation in Selma, Alabama, including his contribution to the infamous Bloody Sunday civil rights march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
He represented King and other demonstrators in the South. Chestnut also won a $2 billion settlement against the Department of Agriculture on behalf of black farmers in Alabama.
Drew S. Days III: Days was one of the first African American faculty members at Yale University Law School, his alma mater. A former assistant counsel with the NAACP, Days became the first African American to head the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice during the Carter administration. He assumed the post of solicitor general — the second leading position in the Justice Department — under President Clinton.
William Henry Hastie: A 1925 graduate of Amherst College, Hastie was appointed judge of the Federal District Court in the Virgin Islands by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Confirmed in 1937, he became the nation’s first black federal magistrate. In 1949, President Harry S. Truman nominated him judge of the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It was the highest judicial position attained by an African American.
A. Leon Higginbotham Jr.: After serving 16 years