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Jack Greenberg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jack Greenberg
Greenberg c. 1952
Born(1924-12-22)December 22, 1924
DiedOctober 12, 2016(2016-10-12) (aged 91)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Alma mater
OccupationLawyer, legal scholar
Known forDirecting the NAACP Legal Defense Fund for 23 years
AwardsPresidential Citizens Medal

Jack Greenberg (December 22, 1924 – October 12, 2016) was an American attorney and legal scholar. He was the Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 1961 to 1984, succeeding Thurgood Marshall.[1]

He was involved in numerous crucial cases, including Brown v. Board of Education, which ended segregation in public schools.[1][2] In all, he argued 40 civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and won almost all of them.[3]

He was Alphonse Fletcher Jr. Professor of Law Emeritus at Columbia Law School,[4] and had previously served as dean of Columbia College and vice dean of Columbia Law School.[5] He died on October 12, 2016.[6]

Early life

Greenberg was born into a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York on December 22, 1924.[7][8][9]

During World War II, Greenberg served in the United States Navy and fought at Okinawa and Iwo Jima.[10] Greenberg commanded a landing craft in the invasion of Iheya Shima, one of the final campaigns of the war.[11] During his service, he was disturbed by racial prejudice he perceived in the Navy, and was threatened with a court martial for shouting at a superior officer in defense of a black crewman that he felt was being mistreated.[12]

After an interruption due to his war service Greenberg graduated from Columbia College with a B.A. in 1945. He further received an LL.B. from Columbia Law School in 1948, and an LL.D. from Columbia Law in 1984.[4][13]


Civil and human rights lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Greenberg became the only white legal counselor for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund ("LDF") in 1949, and, in 1961, succeeded Thurgood Marshall as LDF's Director-Counsel.[14]

Greenberg recalled his earliest arguments before the Supreme Court, saying:

It was like a religious experience; the first few times I was there I was full of awe. I had an almost tactile feeling. The first time I was in the Court, I wasn't arguing. I felt as if I were in a synagogue, and reached to see whether or not I had a yarmulke on. I thought I ought to have one on.[15]

Important civil rights cases argued for the Legal Defense Fund

Brown v. Board of Education, 1954

Educational separation in the US prior to Brown Map.svg

In perhaps his greatest stride, Greenberg argued Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 before the Supreme Court as co-counsel with Thurgood Marshall. Brown declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. In Brown, Greenberg found social scientists and other authorities from the fields of psychology and sociology who addressed the detrimental effects forced segregation could have on young public school students.[14][16]

Meredith v. Fair, 1962

In 1962, Greenberg argued Meredith v. Fair, a case which became a first step in integrating the University of Mississippi by allowing the enrollment of student James Meredith.[17]

Other civil rights cases Greenberg argued include Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education in 1969, which ordered the end of segregated school systems "at once", and Griggs v. Duke Power Company in 1971,[18] which outlawed basing employment and promotion decisions on the results of tests with a discriminatory impact.[14]

In 1972, he argued Furman v. Georgia (1972),[19][20] in which the Court held that the death penalty as it was then applied was a violation of the "cruel and unusual punishment" clause of the Eighth Amendment.

Founding member of other civil and human rights groups

Greenberg was a founding member of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and of Human Rights Watch.[21][22]


Greenberg was an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School from 1970 to 1984, a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School in 1971, and a visiting professor at College of the City of New York in 1977.

In 1982, he was appointed to co-teach Julius L. Chambers' class on race law at Harvard Law School. The university declined to replace Greenberg with a black professor, so black students boycotted the class.[23] When asked if he was frightened to pass through a group of protesters on his way to class the first day, Greenberg said, "No, I was on the beach at Iwo Jima."[24]

Greenberg left LDF in 1984 to become a professor and Vice Dean at Columbia Law School. He served as Dean of Columbia College from 1989 to 1993.[4] Greenberg's teaching interests include constitutional law, civil rights, and human rights law, civil procedure, "Kafka and the Law", and South Africa's post-apartheid constitution. As of fall 2013, Greenberg still taught at Columbia Law School, and served as a senior director of LDF.

He was also a distinguished visiting professor at University of Tokyo Faculty of Law in 1993-94 and at St. Louis University Law School in 1994, and a visiting professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in 1994 and 1996, at Princeton University in 1995, at the University of Munich in 1998, at Tokyo University in 1996 and 1998, at the University of Nuremberg-Erlangen in 1999–2000, and at Hebrew University in 2005.


Greenberg had varied intellectual interests: aside from several books on law and civil rights, including Crusaders in the Courts,[25] he has written a cookbook (Dean Cuisine,[26] with Harvard Law School Dean James Vorenberg), and appeared as a panelist for a New York Times tasting of Oregon pinot noir. He also edited Franz Kafka: The Office Writings (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008) with two other scholars.[27]

Awards and honors

  • In 2001, Greenberg was awarded a Presidential Citizens Medal.[28] President Bill Clinton commented "In the courtroom and the classroom, Jack Greenberg has been a crusader for freedom and equality for more than half a century."[29]
  • In 1998, Greenberg was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[30]
  • In 1996, Greenberg received the Thurgood Marshall Award of the American Bar Association for his long-term contributions to the advancement of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights in the U.S.[31]
  • Greenberg received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Notre Dame University in 2005[32] and an honorary degree from Howard University in 2004.[21]
  • In December 2009, Greenberg received Columbia Law School's Lawrence A. Wien Prize for Social Responsibility.[5] In January 2014, a daylong symposium in his Greenberg's honor was held at Columbia Law School.[10]
  • In May 2014, Greenberg was honored by President Barack Obama on the 60th Anniversary of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ended segregation in public schools. Greenberg argued the case as co-council with Thurgood Marshall.[33]

Book About

Publications (selected list)

See also


  1. ^ a b Teaching With Documents: Documents Related to Brown v. Board of Education. Biographies of Attorneys and Litigants: Brown v. Board of Education. National Archives. Accessed February 10, 2010
  2. ^ 'Brown' Lawyer Jack Greenberg. National Public Radio, May 17, 2004
  3. ^ The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law, bios of speakers. Archived 2012-02-20 at the Wayback Machine Open Society Institute and Soros Foundation Network. Accessed February 10, 2010
  4. ^ a b c Faculty profile, Columbia Law School (accessed January 3, 2016).
  5. ^ a b Professor Jack Greenberg '48 and Jeh Johnson '82 Win Wien Prize, Columbia Law School press release, Columbia University, December 2, 2009. Accessed February 10, 2010
  6. ^ Severo, Richard; McDanald, William. "Jack Greenberg, Civil Rights Champion, Dies at 91". The New York Times Company. The New York Times. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  7. ^ "Jack Greenberg - NAACP LDF".
  8. ^ Jack Greenberg bio. Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Accessed February 10, 2010
  9. ^ Cohen, Warren I. (1 January 2009). Profiles in Humanity: The Battle for Peace, Freedom, Equality, and Human Rights. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 89. ISBN 9780742567016 – via Internet Archive. Jack Greenberg naacp jewish.
  10. ^ a b Crusader for Justice: Professor Jack Greenberg '48 Honored for Lifetime of Advocacy, Columbia Law School (January 31, 2014) (press release).
  11. ^ Michael Meltsner, The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer (University of Virginia Press: 2007), p. 92.
  12. ^ "Legendary Civil Rights Pioneer and Beloved Professor Jack Greenberg '48 Dies at 91". Columbia Law School.
  13. ^ "Jack Greenberg, faculty bio". Columbia Law School.
  14. ^ a b c "Jack Greenberg, civil rights lawyer who helped argue Brown v. Board, dies at 91". Washington Post.
  15. ^ Lehrer, Jeremy, "Jack Greenberg, a legend of the civil rights era, discusses the past and present of the civil rights movement",, Fall 1997, accessed February 9, 2010 Archived February 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Jack Greenberg", Huffington Post, accessed February 9, 2010
  17. ^ "Jack Greenberg, civil rights lawyer who helped argue Brown v. Board, dies at 91". Washington Post.
  18. ^ "Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971) 401 US 424, 91 S.Ct 849 - findUSlaw".
  19. ^ Rebecca Stefoff, Furman V. Georgia: Debating the Death Penalty. Marshall Cavendish, 2007, ISBN 0-7614-2583-7; p. 79
  20. ^ Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972). Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. Accessed February 10, 2010
  21. ^ a b Charter Day 2004 Honorary Degree Recipients. Howard University. Accessed February 10, 2010
  22. ^ JACK GREENBERG bio, THE FORUM ON LAW, CULTURE & SOCIETY AT FORDHAM LAW SCHOOL, Fordham University. Accessed December 23, 2015.
  23. ^ Delgado, Richard (2009). "Liberal McCarthyism and the Origins of Critical Race Theory" (PDF). Iowa Law Review. 94: 1511–12. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 3, 2010. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
  24. ^ Haberman, Clyde (April 13, 2004). "Soldiering on, a half-century after Brown". The New York Times. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
  25. ^ Jack Greenberg, Crusaders in the courts : how a dedicated band of lawyers fought for the civil rights revolution. BasicBooks, New York, 1994. ISBN 0-465-01518-2
  26. ^ Jack Greenberg; James Vorenberg (1990). Dean Cuisine: The Liberated Man's Guide to Fine Cooking. Sheep Meadow Press. ISBN 0-935296-99-9.
  27. ^ Franz Kafka: The Office Writings. Edited by Stanley Corngold, Jack Greenberg and Benno Wagner. Princeton University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-691-12680-7
  28. ^ Beyond the Call Of Civic Duty; Clinton Cites 28 Extraordinary Citizens. Washington Post, January 9, 2001.
  29. ^ President Clinton Awards the Presidential Citizens Medals. Archived 2012-08-31 at WebCite White House press release. January 8, 2001
  30. ^ List of members by class and section. American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Accessed February 10, 2010
  31. ^ Thurgood Marshall Award. History of Award and Past Recipients. American Bar Association. Accessed February 10, 2010
  32. ^ ND will award 13 honorary degrees at commencement. Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine The Observer, April 21, 2005. Accessed February 10, 2010
  33. ^ Felsenthal, Mark, Reuters, "Obamas Mark 60 Years Since Integration Ruling", South Florida Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, pg. A12, 17 May 2014

External links

Preceded by
Robert Pollack
Dean of Columbia College
Succeeded by
Steven Marcus
This page was last edited on 3 July 2021, at 11:35
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