Interview with Constance Baker Motley
QUESTION 65
INTERVIEWER:

I FEEL LIKE I'M GETTING A WHOLE LEGAL HISTORY. WE'RE TALKING ABOUT A STRATEGIZING IN A SENSE. I WONDER IF YOU COULD TALK ABOUT THE PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THAT STRATEGIZING, [ VERY SOME ] OF WHOM ARE NOT WELL KNOWN, LIKE CHARLES HOUSTON, AND SOME OF WHOM ARE WELL KNOWN LIKE MARSHALL. AS TIGHT A DESCRIPTION AS YOU'D LIKE…

Judge Constance Baker Motley:

Well, there are many people involved in developing the legal strategy uh, for attacking segregation per se. Among the leaders in that group were of course, Marshall, who was at that time the director-counsel of the NAAACP Legal Defense Fund. And his mentors were Charles Houston, former Dean at Howard Law School, and Charles Houston's cousin, William Hasty, who was the first black federal judge. Now, Houston and Hasty, in my view, were the chief officers of the legal structure, particularly Houston, who was the first director of NAACP legal defense fund. Now, both of those men, Houston and Hasty were Harvard-educated lawyers. They were men of truly outstanding ability in the legal field. Unfortunately, Houston's life was cut short. He died I think when he was in his 5O's. But he laid the initial ground work for the whole assault on segregation. And then his cousin, William Hasty picked up the task, and together with [Thurgood?] Marshall became the leaders in developing the strategy. Now when it came to the Brown case itself, the number of lawyers greatly expanded. I think we had at least 30 lawyers who actually worked on it. Some of them have become have become prominent, like William Coleman, who became Secretary of Transportation. He was also Harvard-educated lawyer who was a clerk to Mr. Justice Frankfurter. And then we had other lawyers like Lewis Pollop who's now a federal judge in Philadelphia. Robert Carter was Mr. Marshall's first assistant. He's now a federal judge in the same court in which I sit. And there were many others who were professors at Howard University, like James Neighbor and others who actually worked with us over a period of at least a year in developing the main brief in the Brown case, and then of course, the brief on the relief in the second year. In addition to the lawyers, we had to gather historians and sociologists. Kenneth Clark, as you know, played a prominent roll in the Kansas case. He actually testified as a witness as to the effect of segregation on black children. And the historians did the historical research for us on the intent of the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment with respect to school segregation.