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Spottswood William Robinson, III

(1916-1998)

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Spottswood W. Robinson, III

 

Biography

Spottswood William Robinson, III was born in Richmond, Virginia on July 26, 1916. He attended Virginia Union University and then attended Howard University School of Law, graduating first in his class in 1939. Like Thurgood Marshall, he "credited the law school with instilling the notion of social responsibility. 'One of the things that was drilled into my head was ... "This legal education that you're getting is not just for you, it was for everybody. So when you leave here, you want to put it to good use." ' "  "Spottswood Robinson, U.S. appeals judge, dies in Virginia at 82," Jet, Nov. 2, 1998.

Judge Robinson was a faculty member of the Howard University School of Law from his graduation in 1939 until 1947.  Judge Robinson was one of the core attorneys of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund from 1948 to 1960. Through the NAACP LDF Robinson worked on important civil rights cases including Brown v. Board of Education and Chance v. Lambeth (4th Cir., 1951) (establishing the invalidity of carrier-enforced racial segregation in interstate transportation).

From 1960-64 Spottswood Robinson became Dean of the Howard University School of Law. He then served as a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights from 1961 to 1963.

In 1964 Judge Robinson was the first African-American to be appointed the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. In 1966, Judge Robinson became the first African-American appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit when he was appointed by President Johnson. On May 7, 1981, Judge Robinson became the first African American to serve as Chief Judge of the court.  Judge Robinson took senior status in 1989 and later retired. He died in 1998.