George Bundy Smith--a good lawyer.

AuthorFeerick, John D.
PositionNew York Court of Appeals judge - Testimonial

As I have noted elsewhere, if I were asked to pick one moment in the legal history of the country where what ought to be came together with what is, it would be the unanimous decision of nine white men in Brown v. Board of Education dismantling the segregation of white and black children in public education. This was a watershed moment in the history of law. As Judge Robert Carter of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has written, this decision will "always stand at the highest pinnacle of American judicial expression because in guaranteeing equality to all persons in our society as a fundamental tenet of our basic law, it espouses the loftiest values." Benjamin Cardozo, the legendary chief judge of New York, described the chief worth of the judiciary as "making audible the ideals that might otherwise be silenced ... [and] giving them continuity of life and of expression."

Unlike most lawyers, George Bundy Smith understood the importance of that decision in a very personal way. Dean William Michael Treanor of Fordham Law School has said of Judge Smith that he is "someone whose life story and whose profound and inspirational commitment to the cause of racial justice are inextricably linked with the legacy of Brown." Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Judge Smith moved with his family at an early age to the District of Columbia where he attended its public schools and experienced first hand the effects of segregation. He spoke of that experience in a graduation speech at Fordham Law School in May, 2004, stating:

I still remember with extreme distaste being unable to make the left turn at the corner where we lived in Washington, D.C., and walk the one block to the white junior high school. But instead having to make a right turn and go a much farther distance to the school reserved for African Americans. The schools were separated into Division I and Division II schools with Division 1 being white schools and Division II being black schools. Other parts of that City were also segregated including libraries, restaurants, movies and even churches. Upon his graduation from Yale Law School in 1962, Judge Smith joined the legal staff of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; he became a passionate participant in the struggle for civil rights, including being arrested at a sit-in at a whites-only lunch counter. In 1964, he began what would become a forty-year journey in the courts of New York, culminating in...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT