as chief justice of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, he became a professor at Harvard University. He was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Higginbotham was known for his championship of broad constitutional protections of individual rights and personal liberties.
Houston: A graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School, where he was the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review, Houston would become the chief architect of desegregation. In 1940, he became general counsel of the International Association of Railway Employees and the Association of Colored Railway Trainmen and Locomotive Fireman, successfully arguing two cases involving racial discrimination before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Wade McCree Jr.: After a four-year Army stint during World War II, the graduate of Harvard Law School became the first African American judge appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the second African American solicitor general in the history of the U.S. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan — another first for an African American.
Motley: A graduate of Columbia University, Baker Motley’s courtroom skills influenced some of the key cases that preceded the civil rights movement of the 1960s, including Brown v. Board of Education. As chief counsel, she won a favorable decision in 1962 in the case for James H. Meredith against the University of Mississippi, securing Meredith’s right to be admitted to the school.
Charles Ogletree: A Harvard Law School professor and prominent legal theorist, Ogletree has held a number of positions, including deputy director of the District of Columbia’s Public Defender Service. In 1991, he served as legal counsel to Professor Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas Senate confirmation hearings. He is currently co-chairman of the Slavery Reparations Coordinating Committee.
Aulana L. Peters: Currently a member of the New York Stock Exchange Market Regulatory Advisory Committee and a retired partner in the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crotcher, Peters was the first black woman appointed Securities and Exchange Commissioner. A graduate of the College of New Rochelle, New York, and the University of Southern California, she was a member of the Steering Committee for the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Financial Reporting Project and a member of the Board’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Audit Effectiveness.
— Carolyn M. Brown