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July 01, 2015

Human Rights Heroes: The People of the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice

by Wilson Adam Schooley

You are our hero—you and everyone who contrib­utes to the work of the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice.

Though Human Rights magazine traditionally singles out a person outstanding in their field as our issue’s “hero,” in this issue celebrating the Section’s 50th Anniversary we honor all our members—each of you. You follow in big footsteps: the founders and members preceding you have been remarkable. But you’re leading in new ways. And that has been the tradition of this Section, more a move­ment than an entity—a movement built by the passion, commitment, and hard work of all of its members. So, in our 50th Anniversary year, we honor our members—individually and in the aggregate, who have shaped our past and will chart our future.

There are names, both famous and less known, worth mentioning; though by so doing we diminish not one whit any name unspoken. Here are just a few.

University of Pennsylvania Law School Dean Jeff Fordham, who believed a commitment to civil rights and social justice was an ongoing responsibility of the orga­nized bar, and without whose founding inspiration there would be no Section.

Organizing committee members Dean Erwin Griswold (later Solicitor General), Judge William Gray, Judge Alvin Rubin, Orison Marden (later ABA President), Vanderbilt Dean John Wade, U.C. Berkeley Law School Dean Frank Newman, Yale Dean Eugene Rostow, Professor and later U.S. Attorney General Nicholas DeB Katzenbach, Aurthur Freund, Joseph Harrison, Rufus King, J. Vernon Patrick, Cecil Burney, Grenville Clark, William Gossett (also later ABA President), Yale Dean Louis Pollak, John Frank, Professor Soia Mentschikoff, and the remarkable Jerry Shestack.

Section Charter Members Justice William Brennan, Third Circuit Chief Judge William Hastie, future judges Gerhard Gessell, Harold Green, Robert Carter, and Abner Mikva, and future Section Chairs Peter Langrock, McNeil Smith, and (later Congressman) Father Robert Drinan.

First Council Members Charles Joiner, John Sutro, William Poole, Joseph Harrison, Arthur Freund, Whitney North Seymour, and Wendell Falsgraf.

Legal profession luminaries like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Cruz Reynoso, Brooksley Born, and Yale Kamisar.

And all of those whose extraordinary commitment to the Section has been recognized with the Robert Drinan Award, like Jack Curtin, Marna Tucker, Sandy D’Alemberte, and the full list on page 31. All of those who committed a year of their lives almost full-time to serve as Section Chair, also listed on page 31. And everyone who has served on the Section Council in the years since 1966.

Finally, we have been both blessed and honored, and celebrate as fellow heroes, our exceptional Section staffs through the years—every Section Director and all those on staff who have worked hand in hand with them.

Those whose names are mentioned are exemplary, but also merely exemplars—models to be matched for sure, yet only examples of the extraordinary work and commitment exhibited by most Section members. Perhaps the greatest gift of the Civil Rights and Social Justice Section—both its gift to the organized bar, and its members’ gift to it—is passion. We are a coalition of legal hearts and minds propelled not by practice or profit, but purely by conscience and commitment to civil rights and social justice. And for this passion, commitment, and hard work, you are our 50th Anniversary Human Rights Heroes.

Wilson Adam Schooley

Wilson Adam Schooley is an appellate specialist certified by the California State Bar and a trial lawyer in San Diego. In the ABA, he is current Secretary of the Civil Rights and Social Justice Section, on the GP Division Publications Board, and a member of the House of Delegates. He is also a professional actor, adjunct law professor, and published photographer.