SIDEBAR Spring 2018 - 18




By Joseph Hylan, Esq.

[Continued from the Winter 2017-18 issue]
Beta Kappa key did not insulate a lawyer from retaliation.
Representing an African American accused of criminal conduct
in the deep South saw counsel in almost as much jeopardy as
the defendant.


ith the end of hostilities, Hastie resumed his public
career in 1946 when President Harry S. Truman named
him Governor of the United States Virgin Islands. In
that capacity, Hastie researched and drafted the Organic Act of
1947, legislation that was as much constitutional as it was statutory
as it established civil rights and voting rights for the benefit of
the islanders and navigated the transition from Danish colonial
law to American statutory and common law. Under Hastie's
administration, the government improved transportation, medical,
and sanitation conditions. Hastie left the Virgin Islands in a
condition much better than it was prior to his arrival. In addition,
President Truman invited Hastie to represent the United States on
goodwill missions to Third World countries where he explained
and promoted the importance and practical relevance of the
political and social rights in the American Constitution.
With the end of World War II, and as the gargantuan United
States war machine began its demobilization, the few advances
toward racial justice were nullified by the resurgence of Jim Crow.
Houston's lawyers - before, during, and after the war - continued
their legal and administrative warfare.
Jim Crow continued to hold the former Confederate states
in a death grip. Hooded or not, the opposition to AfricanAmerican equity was venomous. Lawyers pressing for such equity
were targeted for beatings, or worse, and a law degree and a Phi


In 1935, in the case of Hollin v Oklahoma, Houston
reversed the conviction of an African American because
blacks had been excluded from the jury pool. Two years
before Hollin, Hastie gained national attention by arguing in
Colcutt v North Carolina that it was a violation of the 14th
Amendment to deny admission to the School of Pharmacy
to an applicant on the basis of race. North Carolina had
dispatched its best lawyer to represent the University, but
he was shredded by Hastie's advocacy. The judge, himself
a committed segregationist, said that he had not had a case
better presented and argued than the one presented and argued
by Hastie. In 1939, in Mills v Maryland, Hastie successfully
challenged Maryland's practice of paying higher salaries to
white instructors. In 1940, in Renon v Virginia, Hastie
reprised his Maryland success.
Hastie teamed with Marshall in two landmark cases
in the United States Supreme Court. They were an odd
couple. While they shared a commitment to civil rights, the
rule of law, and the law as a profession, they were distinct
personalities, as different from each other as chalk is from
cheese. Hastie was a low-key family man, quiet, understated,
almost aloof. Marshall, on the other hand, was a harddrinking, barrel-chested, two-fisted buccaneer who enjoyed
Harlem's nightlife and the company of Joe Louis, Sugar Ray
Robinson, Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, and Lena Horne.
In 1944, lrene Morgan, an African-American woman,
boarded a bus on an interstate route. The Virginia statute
required her to sit in the back of the bus. Ms. Morgan
refused to obey the statute; she was arrested, convicted, and
fined. Hastie and Marshall litigated the case through the
Virginia courts, eventually seeking relief in the United States
Supreme Court. Citing an 1878 decision, Hastie and Marshall
argued that the Virginia statute imposed an undue burden
on interstate commerce. The Supreme Court agreed and in
the decision of Morgan v Virginia established for all practical
purposes the proposition that interstate travel and segregation
were mutually exclusive.

SIDEBAR Spring 2018

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of SIDEBAR Spring 2018

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