The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Board of Directors named Robert L. Carter, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York, the 89th Spingarn Award honoree. Judge Carter will receive the award during the 95th NAACP National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 15, 2004. The Spingarn Medal is the NAACP's highest honor.
NAACP Board of Directors Chairman, Julian Bond said: "Robert Carter's record of successful litigation defending and expanding civil rights is unmatched by any living lawyer. The NAACP honors one of its own when we honor him."
Kweisi Mfume, NAACP President & CEO, said: "Judge Carter's goading and pivotal role in Brown v. Board of Education, serve to demonstrate his tremendous and long lasting impact in the exhaustive fight to bring equality to school children and poor people of all colors throughout this country. He is a premier litigator and a perfect example of what the Spingarn Award represents."
Initially hired as an assistant to NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall, Carter first earned "his fierce determination to fight against racism with all his intellectual and physical strength"while he was in the army. After three years of virulent racism, Judge Carter left the military in 1944 and served for twenty-four years with the Association. During those years Carter argued and won twenty-two cases before the U. S. Supreme Court, including Brown v. Board of Education. His work of conceptualizing and crafting legal strategy helped to establish the frontal assault on Jim Crow during the postwar years.
Following the Brown decision, many southern states sought to stem the tide of desegregation by trying to intimidate the NAACP. Southern leaders passed legislation that required the organization to make its membership lists public. In a series of cases, beginning with NAACP v. Alabama (1958), Carter argued successfully that such legislation violated the NAACP's First Amendment right to free speech, because it was clearly intended to intimidate people. To this day the NAACP membership maintains its anonymity.
In 1972, Carter was appointed as a U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York. He has held adjunct faculty positions at the University of Michigan and New York University law schools and at Yale University's graduate school. Carter was born on March 11, 1917, in Careyville, Florida.
He excelled in school, skipping two grades and graduating from high school at age sixteen. He received scholarships that enabled him to earn an undergraduate degree at Lincoln University and a law degree from Howard University's School of Law. He obtained his LL.M. from Columbia University.
The Spingarn Award, first given in 1915 by NAACP Chairman Joel E. Spingarn, is designed to highlight distinguished merit and achievement among African Americans. Previous Spingarn winners include: Oprah Winfrey, Vernon Jordan, Earl G. Graves, Sr., former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., William H. Cosby, Jr., Rosa Parks, Leontyne Price, Maya Angelou, General Colin Powell, Edward "Duke"Ellington, Carl T. Rowan, Alex Haley, Jacob Lawrence, Henry "Hank"Aaron, and Myrlie Evers-Williams, Chairman Emeritus, the NAACP Board of Directors.
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