Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Andrew Young, January 31, 1974. Interview A-0080. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Establishment of a liberal judiciary and its impact on civil rights

Young credits Republicans in the Eisenhower administration with helping to establish a liberal judiciary in the South during the 1950s. Although Young was a Democrat, he argues that Republicans must be given some credit, in this regard, for helping to address racial issues and paving the way for the success of civil rights activism in the 1960s. According to Young, this was made possible by the fact that Eisenhower Republicans tended to be liberal southerners who were not associated with Democratic machine politics that kept Jim Crow segregation at the zenith of its power. As a result, progressive judges were appointed to southern courts throughout the 1950s which challenged "the old southern oligarchy" and later gave judicial support to civil rights measures.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Andrew Young, January 31, 1974. Interview A-0080. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Well, I started in southern politics just about that time, 1955.
Well, that's the basic question we ask everybody. What was the major change in the last twenty-five years. And essentially what comes down, unless you're talking to Republicans, is the removal, in some sense, of the race issue. The change, I mean, in the issue.
You've got to give Republicans some credit, though. You've got to give the Eisenhower administration some credit for the justices in the South. Because they appointed. . . the Republicans in the Eisenhower administration tended to be the liberal southerners. And they were not tied to the old Democratic machine. So you really got the best trained, brightest lawyers in the South, quite often, moving into judgeships. For instance, in Atlanta, you had blacks on the Republican state committee that were approving and recommending the judges. And there was a strong Republican party in Atlanta, that carried Atlanta for Nixon in 1960, in spite of the fact that Martin Luther King was resident of Atlanta. And that King incident, you know, tended to swing the big cities of the north. But they appointed judges that were not a part of the old southern oligarchy. And so when we came along in the sixties, there really was a progressive and independent judiciary.
Who were the judges that stand out in your mind?
Oh, Judge Tuttle, of course. Judge Wisdom in New Orleans. Judge Frank Johnson in Alabama. Who was the judge in Saint Augustine? Jacksonville? He's still there. Can't think of it offhand. Simpson, Bryan Simpson, I think his name is. And those are the ones that immediately come to mind. And that's the basis of the Fifth Circuit. And I would imagine the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is the most liberal wing of the judiciary in America. For two reasons. One, you've got some of the brightest, independent jurists that were available. But second, they were constantly under pressure to make decisions on human rights cases. And they were almost the victims of their own precedents and their own principles. And one thing led to the next and to the next and to the next, and you could always count on justice in southern courts, where you couldn't count on justice even in the federal courts of Illinois. Because they were interlocked with the Daley machine. I would suspect the same thing would have been true in Washington. Although, who was the judge- Skelly Wright, from New Orleans, who came to Washington-brought that same kind of liberal spirit to the Court of Appeals here in Washington.