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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

University of Alabama School of Law did not turn on alumnus Hugo Black after <cite>Brown</cite>

LeMaistre corrects the perception that Supreme Court justice Hugo Black became unwelcome at the University of Alabama School of Law after he joined pro-civil rights rulings in the 1940s and 1950s.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. 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

Now Black was much older than this group. He graduated around 1907 or somewhere back in there, didn't he? [Note: Black: b. 1889, d. 1971. Received his LLB 1906]
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
No, Black was 92 when he died or 91, something like that. I would guess that he was ten or twelve years older than Hill and Sparkman. [Note: Hill: b. 1874. Sparkman b. 1899]
ALLEN J. GOING:
In 1930, of course, he was already in the Senate. He was elected in '26.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
He was in his first term . . .
ALLEN J. GOING:
That's right, and re-elected in 1932 in a run-off against Kilby—former governor. But there was no real tie or connection between Black and this group was there, other than the New Deal?
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Not really, There was a great deal of interest in this group in the New Deal and as a supporter of the New Deal they recognized Black's influence and all were supporters of his. One thing that these recent stories of the University honoring Black, I think either left the wrong impression or got some erroneous information, because every one of the stories recently when they had the week here dedicated to Hugo Black and next year which would have been his hundredth birthday, they're gonna have a whole week of lectures and various kinds of activities by some pretty important figures at the Law School honoring Hugo Black. I noticed a number of these stories—one in the New York Times or Time magazine—saying that the University resented him and never wanted him to come back after being appointed to the Supreme Court, never recognized that he was . . . Well, that isn't true. Dick Foster brought him back here to speak at the commencement in about the last year before Dick died.
ALLEN J. GOING:
Would have been about 1940 or '41.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Just a year or two before the war, and he pulled out all the stops to honor Hugo Black. I remember Devane Jones, who was a local lawyer here, who was one of the Chesterfieldian types, who was sitting around in the president's mansion waiting for lunch. And Devone began to say something to Hugo, he said "Mr. Justice, uh, Judge, uh, Hugo . . . what do your friends [laugh] call you?" Black said, "Well, Devane, my friends call me Hugo." But there was no feeling there that Hugo Black didn't deserve recognition from the University. There may have been a change; there may have been a revulsion when the Ku Klux began to—
ALLEN J. GOING:
Yeah, when the emotion of the segregation crisis began to take hold.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Black was not shy about writing those opinions; he took part in all of them and some of the reactionaries, who probably didn't go to the University themselves, may have made some disparaging remarks about the University and its graduates. The school certainly shouldn't be painted as having not been willing to honor one of its famous sons. I just don't think that was fair.
ALLEN J. GOING:
I've gotten the impression, kinda like you, that they are going all out to remedy or make amends—
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Making up for something that they didn't do then. Matter of fact, I don't recall anybody connected with the University administration who ever had a bad word to say about Hugo Black. Some of them didn't agree with his decisions; some of them wished he'd decided otherwise, but they could read. They could read the Constitution—they knew what he was interpreting.