Beech's formative practical legal education
Beech explains how his legal practice benefited because of Durham attorney C.J. Gates' training. He discusses the strategies and practices black lawyers employed for racial injustice cases.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Harvey E. Beech, September 25, 1996. Interview J-0075. 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
- HARVEY E. BEECH:
...So, I went to Durham, and I met a Mr. C. J. Gates, who graduated from
Boston University law school, many years ago. And I asked him could I
come and learn how to practice with him. And he said, "Well,
where do you plan to practice when you learn?" I said,
"I plan to go back to Kinston." And he said,
"Why don't you stay with me here in Durham, I need
somebody." I said, "Mr. Gates, I plan to go
home." He said, "Well, if that's the case,
I have to charge you." He charged 24 me one third of all of his
expenses. I paid one third of his rent, one third of the secretary bill,
and one third of everything. And I had a chance, though, to learn how to
practice under him.
We went to the Federal District Court, the Supreme Court--my first case
was a case that he had, and I think it's one of the landmark
cases on police brutality, I call it. They charged a young lady in
Greenville with resisting arrest, and we took that case to the Supreme
Court. I did all the legal work in it. And we won
the case in the N.C. Supreme Court. The case was reversed. She was
convicted; we reversed it in the Supreme Court. At that time, we
didn't have enough money to cover the field. And during that
time, if anybody Black got in trouble, where Whites were involved, the
only person you could, they could hire would be Black lawyers, and we
used to go to cases like, in Williamston, where a man was charged with
raping a White woman, or something.
And in order to get paid you'd have to go and have the
consultation with your clients and the people, and then you had to go to
church that night and almost preach and raise money in a handkerchief.
And I would go with the lawyers and I would count whatever money they
had. Sometimes it would be hundred dollars or less. But
that's the way it was in those days. We're talking
about in 1952.
But I learned how to practice law with Mr. Gates, and I always will
remember and be indebted to him, although he's gone now, for
allowing me the opportunity to learn how to practice. I maintain today,
and I think I mentioned it when I was a member of the Board of Trustees
of the Law Alumni at Carolina, but I made the suggestion, that when a
person finishes law school, passes the bar, he is the most inadequate
person that I know of who can call himself a professional. He knows
nothing about how to do it. I advocate, over and over again, that a law
student graduating from law school and passing the bar should be
required to take some kind of apprenticeship to learn how to practice.
I stayed with Mr. Gates for two years. I came to Kinston in 1953 or
′4 and began to practice, alone, and had a rather successful
practice in the very beginning. No one knew that I had been in training
for two years. They assumed that I was just out of law school, I guess.
But I used the courtroom just like my living room again, and I think
being so brash, they gave me more credit than I was due...