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Celebrating Black History Month! – Charles Hamilton Houston

February 6, 2023 in News

In honor of National Black History Month, The Elder Law Center of Kirson & Fuller is proud to feature African Americans that have impacted the nation through jurisprudence.

Born September 3, 1895 in Washington, D.C., Charles Hamilton Houston was monumental in paving the way to the U.S Supreme Court outlawing racial segregation in public schools. Graduating valedictorian from Amherst College, Houston went on to teach for Howard University until he enlisted into the U.S. Army during World War I and was commissioned 2nd lieutenant, serving in France and Germany.

“The hate and scorn showered on us Negro officers by our fellow Americans convinced me that there was no sense in my dying for a world ruled by them. I made up my mind that if I got through this war, I would study law and use my time fighting for men who could not strike back.”

After discharge in 1919, Houston enrolled in Harvard Law School, where he was the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review, then went on to study civil law at the University of Madrid.

After passing the bar, he not only actively practiced law, Houston was also the vice-dean of Howard University Law School from 1929 – 1935. During Houston’s tenure, Howard University Law School became a noteworthy institution, accredited by the Association of American Law Schools and the American Bar Association.  

Serving as special counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Houston argued that it was unconstitutional for Missouri to exclude blacks from the state’s university law school when, under the “separate but equal” provision, no comparable facility for blacks existed within the state. It was not until four years after Houston’s death that his efforts to disassemble the legal theory of “separate but equal” came to fruition with the historic decision  of Brown v. Board of Education, ruling segregation illegal in public schools.

Unfortunately, Houston’s contributions went largely unrecognized until after his death. He was posthumously awarded the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal in 1950. Howard Law School dedicated their main building as well as several public schools bear his name. Harvard Law School named a law professorship after Houston and opened the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice in 2005 paying homage to Houston’s legacy.









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