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Raymond Pace Alexander At his desk in his law office, circa 1935-1940. Collections of the University of Pennsylvania Archives.

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Alexander, Raymond Pace (13 October 1898–24 November 1974), lawyer, judge, and civil rights leader, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the third son of Hillard Boone and Virginia Pace Alexander, both slaves in Virginia who were freed in 1865 and migrated to Philadelphia in 1880. His background was working-class poor and he grew up in Philadelphia's seventh ward, an all-black community made famous by W. E. B. Du Bois's seminal study ...

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William Hastie. With an unidentified woman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-94041).

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Hastie, William Henry (17 November 1904–14 April 1976), civil rights attorney, law school professor, and federal judge, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Roberta Childs, a teacher, and William Henry Hastie, a clerk in the U.S. Pension Office (now the Veterans Administration). He was a superb student and athlete. His father’s transfer to Washington, D.C., in 1916 permitted Hastie to attend the nation’s best black secondary school, the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, from which he graduated as valedictorian in 1921. He attended Amherst College, where he majored in mathematics and graduated in 1925, valedictorian, Phi Beta Kappa, and magna cum laude. After teaching for two years in Bordentown, New Jersey, he studied law at Harvard University, where one instructor adopted the custom of saying after asking a question of the class, “Mr. Hastie, give them the answer” (Ware, p. 30). He worked on the ...

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Higginbotham, A. Leon, Jr. (25 February 1928–14 December 1998), jurist and civil rights leader, was born Aloysius Leon Higginbotham in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Aloysius Leon Higginbotham, Sr., a laborer, and Emma Lee Douglass Higginbotham, a domestic worker. While he was attending a racially segregated elementary school, his mother insisted that he receive tutoring in Latin, a required subject denied to black students; he then became the first African American to enroll at Trenton's Central High School. Initially interested in engineering, he enrolled at Purdue University only to leave in disgust after the school's president denied his request to move on-campus with his fellow African-American students. He completed his undergraduate education at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he received a B.A. in sociology in 1949. In August 1948 he married Jeanne L. Foster; the couple had three children. Angered by his experiences at Purdue and inspired by the example of Supreme Court Justice ...

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Charles Hamilton Houston. Oil on canvas, 1943-1944, by Betsy Graves Reyneau. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Harmon Foundation.

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Houston, Charles Hamilton (03 September 1895–22 April 1950), lawyer and professor, was born in the District of Columbia, the son of William LePre Houston, a lawyer, and Mary Ethel Hamilton, a hairdresser and former schoolteacher. Houston graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College in 1915. After a year of teaching English at Howard University in Washington, D.C., he served during World War I as a second lieutenant in the 351st Field Artillery of the American Expeditionary Forces. Having experienced racial discrimination while serving his country, Houston “made up [his] mind that [he] would never get caught … without knowing … [his] rights, that [he] would study law and use [his] time fighting for men who could not strike back.” He entered Harvard Law School in 1919, where he became the first African American elected as an editor of the ...

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Ransom, Leon Andrew (06 August 1899–25 August 1954), lawyer and educator, was born in Zanesville, Ohio, the son of Charles Andrew Ransom, a janitor who later ran a stable, and Nora Belle Lee. He attended Ohio State University for a year (1917–1918), joined the army during World War I (1918), and graduated from Wilberforce University (1920). After five years (1920–1925) working as a dining car waiter and in real estate in Chicago, where he served as assistant executive secretary of the Spring Street Branch of the YMCA, he decided to go to law school. His widow later recounted that he became a lawyer as “a form of protest” against the racial discrimination he saw all around him in Chicago. He earned a law degree with honors at Ohio State University (J.D., 1927). In 1924 he married Willa C. Carter; they had two children. In religion he was African Methodist Episcopalian; in politics he was an active Republican and then an Independent. “Andy” Ransom’s easygoing demeanor belied his commitment to racial progress....

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Tourgée, Albion Winegar (02 May 1838–21 May 1905), activist, judge, and author, was born in Williamsfield, Ohio, the son of Valentine Tourgée and Louisa Emma Winegar, farmers. His mother died when Tourgée was five. He grew up both in Kingsville, Ohio, in the Western Reserve, a center of antislavery sentiment, and in Lee, Massachusetts, where he spent two years with an uncle....

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Walden, Austin Thomas (12 April 1885–02 July 1965), civil rights attorney and judge, was born in Fort Valley, Georgia, the son of Jeff Walden and Jennie Tomlin, former slaves. Walden earned a B.A. at Fort Valley Industrial School in 1902 and an M.A. at Atlanta University in 1907. He entered law school at the University of Michigan, where he received several prizes in oratory and an LL.B. in 1911....

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Waring, J. Waties (27 July 1880–11 January 1968), U.S. district judge, was born Julius Waties Waring in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Edward Perry Waring, a railroad official and school superintendent, and Anna Thomasine Waties. An eighth-generation Charlestonian, he was educated at the local University School and the College of Charleston, from which he graduated in 1900. After reading law with a local attorney, he established a practice in his native city. Soon he acquired a large and varied clientele; a well-connected wife, Annie Gammell, whom he married in 1913 and with whom he was to have a daughter; and a prestigious Meeting Street address. In 1914 he was appointed assistant U.S. attorney in Charleston, a position he held for the balance of the ...