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A. Leon Higginbotham


Biographical Sketches

Robert L. Carter
Julian R. Dugas
Jack Greenberg
William H. Hastie
George E. C. Hayes
A. Leon Higginbotham
Oliver W. Hill
Charles Hamilton Houston
Thurgood Marshall
William Robert Ming, Jr.
Constance Baker Motley
James M. Nabrit, Jr.
Spottswood W. Robinson, III



A. Leon Higginbotham was born on February 25, 1928, in Trenton, N.J.   Higginbotham attended Purdue University from 1944-46 and then transferred to Antioch College where he earned a B.A. 1949.  Three years later in 1952 he graduated with high honors from Yale University Law School. After an active legal career including many years as a federal judge, he died on December 14, 1998. He was married twice and had four children.

He held a variety of positions early in his career including stints as: a Philadelphia County assistant district attorney (1953-54); a partner in the law firm of Norris, Green, Harris & Higginbotham, in Philadelphia (1954-62); a special hearing officer for conscientious objectors for the U.S. Justice Department (1960-62); a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (1962-64); and a commissioner of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (1961-62).  Then, from 1964 until his retirement in 1993, he was a federal judge serving first a federal district court judge for the U.S. District Court for the East District (1964-77) then on the U.S. Court of Appeals Third Circuit (1977-93). He then he was counsel to Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton (1993-98) and a professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government (1993-98) and he served as an international mediator of first South African election in which blacks were allowed to vote in 1994.

Among his many awards are the nation's highest civilian award -- the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1995), the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award (1994), the Spingarn Medal (1996) and numerous honorary degrees.

Judge Higginbotham was a life-long champion of individual rights liberties as an advocate, judge, and author.


Selected Publications

Books by Judge Higginbotham

In the matter of color: the colonial period. (Oxford U. Press, 1978)

Shades of freedom: racial politics and presumptions of the American legal process. (Oxford U. Press, 1996)

Selected Articles by Judge Higginbotham

Reflections on the impact of Charles Hamilton Houston - from a unique perspective, 27 New England L. Rev. 605-611 (1993) (from 1980 Amherst College symposium "Men of Amherst: Charles Hamilton Houston Forum")

The ten precepts of American slavery jurisprudence: Chief Justice Roger Taney's defense and Justice Thurgood Marshall's condemnation of the precept of black inferiority, 17 Cardozo L. Rev. May 1695-1710 (1996)

Violence in America: "contracts," myths and history, 36 Boston C. L. Rev. 899-911 (1995)

with F. Michael Higginbotham, "Yearning to breathe free": legal barriers against and options in favor of liberty in antebellum Virginia, 68 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1213-1271 (1993)

Seeking pluralism in judicial systems: the American experience and the South African challenge, 42 Duke L. J. 1028-1068 (1993)

with William C. Smith, The Hughes Court and the beginning of the end of the "separate but equal" doctrine, 76 Minn. L. Rev. 1099-1131 (1992) (Charles Evans Hughes) (The William B. Lockhart Lecture)

An open letter to Justice Clarence Thomas from a federal judicial colleague, 140 U. Penn. L. Rev. 1005-1028 (1992)

Race, sex, education and Missouri jurisprudence: Shelley v. Kraemer in a historical perspective, 67 Wash. U. L. Q. 673-708 (1989)

Racial purity and interracial sex in the law of colonial and antebellum Virginia, A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., Barbara K. Kopytoff.  Georgetown Law Journal August 1989 v77 n6 p1967-2029

with Barbara K. Kopytoff, Property first, humanity second/ the recognition of the slave's human nature in Virginia civil law, 50 Ohio State L. J. 511-540 (1989)

Priority of human rights in court reform, 70 Fed. L. R. Dec. 134-159 (1976)

Relevance of slavery:  race and the American legal process, 54 Notre Dame L. Rev. 171-80 (1978)

Racism and the early American legal process, 1619-1896, 407 Annals Am. Academy of Pol. & Soc. Sci., 1-17 (1973)  

Selected Materials about and Tributes to Judge Higginbotham

A Tribute to A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., 20 Yale L. & Pol. Rev. (2002) (special issue)

Charles J. Ogletree Jr., Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.'s Civil Rights Legacy, 34 Harv. Civ. Rights-Civ. Lib. L. Rev. 1-6  (1999)

Symposium honoring Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., 9 Law & Inequality: J. Theory and Prac. vi-467 (1991)