Charles Hamilton Houston was born in Washington D.C. on September 3rd, 1895 and as a scholar, educator, and lawyer he dedicated his life to fighting injustice, inequality and racism using the rule of law as an instrument for justice and social change.
Houston helped found Howard University’s law school, and one of his students there included Thurgood Marshall, our nation's first African American U.S. Supreme Court Justice and part of the legal team in the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). On April 22, 1950, four years before this historic opinion, Houston passed away at the age of 54. He is remembered as being the driving force behind the dismantling of Jim Crow.
Houston described in stark terms the incredible responsibility that we lawyers have: “A lawyer is either a social engineer or a parasite on society.” When I first started practicing law more than 20 years ago, I had his quote taped on my wall. I have always felt a tremendous responsibility to use my legal training and the process of law to fight for clients, cases and causes I believe in, no matter the odds against us and even if it might have been easier to just observe from the sidelines. I have had the tremendous honor of seeing first hand how the litigation process – even though it can be exhausting, expensive and slow-moving – can also bring a measure of justice and restoration to those clients who have the courage and stamina to engage it.
Happy Birthday Charles Houston, and thank you for your legacy left by a life so unselfishly lived.
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