BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Charles Ogletree, Jr., where does the title "All Deliberate Speed" come from?
CHARLES OGLETREE, AUTHOR, "ALL DELIBERATE SPEED": It actually comes from the second case in Brown vs. Board of Education. The first case that we all know about was decided on May 17, 1954. But after the Supreme Court said, We have to end segregation, it had a second decision to decide how to implement that. And on May 31, 1955, it said, We`re going to end segregation, but we`re going to do so with all deliberate speed. And that became my mantra, the idea that Brown was a colossal, very important decision, but the second Brown decision to implement it took away much of the moral courage and the force of the first decision.
LAMB: Who was Brown and who was the Board of Education?
OGLETREE:Well, it was interesting. Brown, Oliver Brown, was the father of Linda Brown, a young African-American girl from Topeka, Kansas. She was concerned that she had to walk a long distance from her home to go to school because she was black. And the NAACP, with the great leadership of Charles Hamilton Houston, a Harvard-educated lawyer, and Thurgood Marshall and others looked around the country, and they found five places.
The case is called Brown vs. Board of Education. It`s Oliver Brown against the Topeka Board of Education, but it`s five cases. The NAACP brought cases in Virginia, in Delaware, in South Carolina, but also in Topeka, Kansas, and in the District of Columbia. So it was a concerted effort to say, Supreme Court, this time you cannot duck the question of separate but equal education. We`re showing you this is a national phenomenon. And Brown vs. Board of Education is the name of a case that`s actually five cases.
LAMB: Would you be sitting here without this case?
OGLETREE:Not at all.
OGLETREE:I might be cleaning up here or doing something else, but I wouldn`t be sitting here as a professor at Harvard law school. My entire life is influenced by this case. When the Supreme Court integrated public education, it created opportunities for me, for my little hometown in Merced, California. I`m sure it had a big impact on my ability to go to Stanford University, even though I did end up graduating with honors. It had an absolutely significant impact on my going to Harvard law school and being a tenured faculty member there now.
I was not the first qualified or the most capable, it`s just that others had made sacrifices, and I stand on those broad shoulders. I would not be here, I could not be here but for the sacrifices of great teachers and the great lawyers who made these cases a reality.
LAMB: You have this double-size picture in the middle of your book. Who are these folks? And would they be where they are today without Brown vs. Board of Education?
OGLETREE:You know, some of them might say that they would because those are all Harvard law school graduates...
LAMB: Are they all African-Americans?
OGLETREE:All African-Americans, graduated from Harvard law school from the 1960s until the year 2000. And we held for the first time ever in Harvard`s history a gathering of all of its African-American law graduates. It was a celebration. That`s what it was called, a celebration of Harvard`s black alumni. And the goal was to say, Let`s just take a look at what has happened, and it tells you that Harvard law school has had a profound impact on the ability of African-Americans to have upward mobility in many places.
And it goes beyond that. This picture exemplifies other greats who were there. Ken Chenault, who was a president of American Express -- he is a Harvard law school graduate. Frank Raines, the president of Fannie Mae, another Harvard law school graduate. Loretta Argrett, who was the head of the tax division in the Clinton administration, a Harvard law school graduate. These African-Americans have had incredible mobility because of those opportunities. Seven of us are on the faculty now. I`ve taught students who are teachers now, partners in law firms, leaders of business and industry. So Brown opened up doors that weren`t imaginable. That picture could not have been taken 10 years ago or 20 years ago or 30 years ago, but now it`s a celebration. We`ve arrived, and it`s no time to look back or to go back.
LAMB: Put on "still store" we call them -- the names of the members of the Supreme Court back then. And they`re on screen here in just a second. The first one on that list is Hugo Black, and it shows the state he was from originally, the years that he served -- and he was there 34, off to the right. Stanley Reed, Felix Frankfurter, William O. Douglas, Robert Jackson, who William Rehnquist clerked for, as I remember...
OGLETREE:That`s exactly right.
LAMB: ... Harold Burton of Ohio, Tom Clark of Texas -- Ramsey Clark, his son, became attorney general...
LAMB: ... Sherman Minton from Indiana and Chief Justice Earl Warren of California. Anything about that particular Court that`s important to know?
OGLETREE:Well, what`s about that Court that`s important, it`s an eclectic Court. You know, Hugo Black was a Justice who was appointed. People were concerned about his former ties to the Ku Klux Klan. He disavowed those when he joined the Court. He was one who was very concerned about rights during the Warren Court era, when he was there.
But what`s missing, actually, is Fred Vinson. That`s the sort of untold story. The Court that was going to decide Brown was a radically different Court in disposition. In 1953, the judges were split entirely and ideologically on whether or not they would end Plessy vs. Ferguson`s 1896 philosophy or doctrine of separate but equal. And it`s reported, based on memoranda held by the Justices then, that Chief Justice Fred Vinson from Kentucky was one of the five who would uphold Plessy and not integrate the schools.
Amazingly, on September 8, 1953, after the Court had -- a case had been argued, and they were waiting for a decision, Fred Vinson died. And it was clear that Felix Frankfurter, a Harvard law school professor and a member of the Court, who was very bright, did not like Vinson. It`s reported that he said at the time of Vinson`s death, his Chief Justice and a colleague, he said, This is the first indication that I`ve ever had that there is a God. That`s a pretty strong statement for -- from one Justice about another.
And Vinson`s death allowed Earl Warren to join the Court. Warren had been the governor of California. He was the attorney general during the Korematsu, the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. But Eisenhower thought that he would be a person who could bring consensus, and that is exactly what he did. And it`s hard to imagine another Chief Justice who`s had so much success in bringing these disparate points of view together.
And what Warren did was to talk to the Justices, try to alleviate differences, and to say, We need to speak with one voice. And up until May 17, 1954, there was not one single voice. There were many voices -- someone who`d write dissents, someone to write concurring opinions. But Chief Justice Earl Warren took his time, the politician that he was, to go Justice by Justice to understand their fears and get them to come with the unanimous decision. It made all the difference in the world that in 1954, after 58 years of Jim Crow segregation, the Supreme Court said with one voice separate but equal is inherently unequal.
LAMB: There are two decisions, as you say, Brown one and Brown two. Go over -- what did Brown one do again, May 17, 1954?
OGLETREE:What Brown one, to say, Right now, we are proclaiming once and forever that segregation, as we knew it, that was operative and legal, has ended today. The question was, now, How do we implement this? What do we tell all the various states? What do we tell all the schools? What do we tell the federal courts? What do we tell them? And said, We want additional arguments.
Justice Frankfurter was particularly concerned about, How do we do this? There`s going to be Southern resistance. There`s going to be reactions. We don`t know how we can enforce this without thinking about it. Let`s hear arguments, in terms of what`s the remedy. The right is to equal education, the remedy is How fast?
Thurgood Marshall and the lawyers said it should be forthwith. You`ve made a bold decision, now support it by saying end segregation now. The Court came back on May 31, a year later, and said, We are going with these orders to end segregation, and it said, with all deliberate speed. The lawyers didn`t even quite realize what had happened right when that originally happened. And there was a secretary who went and looked up the word "deliberate" and learned that the word "deliberate" meant "slow." And so the Supreme Court was saying, We`ll end segregation, but it will be done slowly. And it was slow.
Governor Faubus in Arkansas stood in the door, said, Black children are not going to come to Central High School. Governor Wallace said "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." At the same time, there was this thing called the Southern Manifesto. Members of Congress came together and said that, We`re going to fight this push for integration by any means necessary.
And at the same time, even Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had appointed Chief Justice Warren was disappointing by saying that all these Southern whites want is for their sweet little Southern girls to not be in classroom with some big, overgrown Negroes. And he said, You can`t change people`s minds or hearts through law. If the chief executive of the country is not committed to this decision, you can imagine how easy it was for others to resist it. To his credit, ultimately, in 1958, he was prepared to call in the airborne to ensure that Central High was integrated. So Eisenhower ultimately decided it would be enforced, but he was ambivalent about whether or not the South, in particular, was ready for integration.
LAMB: I want to show the Court one more time for folks that didn`t get a chance to see the entire Court. Anybody on there, on this list -- and we`ll show Hugo Black here at the top -- that surprises you that it was a 9-0 -- or was both -- both Brown one and Brown two 9-0?
OGLETREE:Right. Both were unanimous decisions. There are a lot of surprises. Justice Douglas seemed very clear that he thought that Frankfurter was ambivalent. He thought he had a few of the votes. But some of the Justices just weren`t ready, when you talk about, like, Justice Burton, whether or not he was really ready for a unanimous decision. And there were constant arguments going back and forth. The same was said about Justice Reed. And so there were debates about who would finally support the decision. But Earl Warren has to be given credit for being the ultimate and consummate politician to take nine men and work this amazingly well.
Two of my mentors and colleagues at Harvard law school clerked for Frankfurter that year. One, Frank Sander, is still on the Harvard law school faculty. The other, Jim Vorenberg, our former dean, recently died, but he was also on the faculty. And they talked about the Court keeping this entire case almost secret. Law clerks didn`t work on it. They weren`t involved in it. The Court didn`t want the word to slip out. They thought this decision was very controversial and highly volatile, and they did not really share it with their law clerks until just before it was decided.
In fact, Frank Sander says Frankfurter told him, Oh, you might want to come into the courtroom today, on May 17, but didn`t tell him then what had happened and the ultimate decision. So this was a very significant decision.
And the other thing is, when you read about it, if you read law cases, if you pull up law cases, you see that legal jargon, the technical jargon. It seems to me that this decision was really written for the public because it`s straightforward, it`s not complicated, doesn`t have a lot of citations. It`s a very short decision, as is the second, Brown two. And I think the Court was trying to make a -- have a message that, Here we have this issue of segregation, here we have clear disparity between the schools for blacks and whites, and we have to send a message out that`s clear and unambiguous and not tied up in legal jargon. And that`s exactly what they did.
LAMB: That was 1955, May, the second decision. When`s the first thing that happened in this country that made a difference for black kids, either in the South or the North?
OGLETREE:Well, it`s hard to tell because -- let me tell you what didn`t happen. There was no wholesale embracing of this decision. In fact, there was resistance. In Arkansas, there`s a case called Aaron vs. Cooper, decided in 1958, because in Arkansas, there was this constant effort to refuse to -- Governor Faubus and others refused to integrate. And the Supreme Court in 1958 came back and said, We`re demanding that you do this right now. And they were -- they knew that they had Eisenhower`s support. That is that, If we tell them they must do it, Mr. President, you have to make sure you`re prepared to send troops. And that`s exactly what happened.
So even years after the decision, there was still resistance. Ultimately, by the `60s and `70s, you start seeing substantial evidence of integration in the South.
One of the reasons this book was written was because one of my points is that we keep thinking the problem of segregation was a Southern problem. It was a national problem because as much as we saw every night on TV in the `50s and the 60s demonstrations in Birmingham and in Selma and Jackson, Mississippi, and all parts of the South, 21 years after Brown, I`m on my way to law school at Harvard law school in 1975, and what do we have? We have white resistance to integrated education in the city of Boston.
Black children were victims of all sorts of intolerance by whites who felt that blacks were being, you know, forced upon them. And I was amazed to see, as a young man going to law school, that there was still resistance in the 1970s to integrated education.
LAMB: This is a little bit ahead of the story, but tell the story about you and your wife arriving in Boston.
OGLETREE:Well, it was amazing because we left California -- we were married in the summer of 1975. And we knew something about Boston, but we drove to Boston. We`d rented an apartment found by a friend of ours, Larry Terry, who was a medical student at Harvard medical school. And when we I arrived there that fall, it was quite amazing, as we got there. I got directions -- I got screwed up, and so I ended up getting off the highway, I-93, which is a main thoroughfare in Boston. And I called our landlord, telling him I wasn`t quite there, and explained where we were.
And he said, Describe where you are. And I said, Well, there`s Patty`s Liquors and there`s O`Reilly so-and-so. He said, Get back in the car. Just get back in the car and find the freeway. What he was telling me is that we had inadvertently driven into South Boston, the very area where there`d been racial violence from 1974 to 1975. And we finally got back on the highway, made it into Cambridge, found our little apartment in East Cambridge. And then I realized that this was not just a fairy tale. It wasn`t something to read about in the newspaper. I was there in the middle of a crisis in 1975 concerning busing and racial conflict between blacks and whites.
LAMB: Go back to the courtroom in 1954 and `55. Who were the lawyers, or the lawyer, that stood up in front of that Court and argued the case?
OGLETREE:Well, let me go a little bit further back because the most important lawyer wasn`t there. The lawyer who was responsible for the Brown case, the architect of the decision, is Charles Hamilton Houston. He was from Washington, D.C. He went to Amherst College. He`s a graduate of Harvard law school. He was the first African-American to be elected to the "Harvard Law Review," which is an honor in terms of academic performance. He also -- in addition to being one of the great geniuses, he could not find a job in a law firm because of his race.
LAMB: Isn`t this a portrait here of him in this one picture?
OGLETREE:Exactly. Harvard law school in 1998 had a tribute to Charles Hamilton Houston, and his family came back, and his son who lives in Baltimore, and his grandson, who`s a lawyer in Arizona, and his granddaughter, were all part of the celebration.
But he couldn`t get a job. And he went back to Washington, worked with his father`s law firm, and ultimately, went to Howard law school to teach. And he trained Thurgood Marshall, the lawyer who argued the Brown case. He trained Oliver Hill, 97-year-old lawyer who argued one of the Brown cases. And he trained the next generation of lawyers to fight segregation.
There`s a video called "The Road to Brown" which chronicles Houston`s incredible efforts to integrate the South. And many people say that he killed Jim Crow because of all of his efforts. My own view is that Jim Crow might have killed him. He died prematurely. He was just 50 years old when he died in 1950. So before the Brown case was even argued, he died. But every lawyer there -- Thurgood Marshall, Robert Carter, Spotswood Robinson, Oliver Hill, Jack Greenberg, a whole host -- James Nabrit, George E.C. Hayes -- all these lawyers and more had been trained or influenced by Houston. So, he didn`t argue, but the people who were there were his pupils.
LAMB: Who was Jim Crow?
OGLETREE:Jim Crow was a caricature, and it was a caricature of a sort of shuffling -- and sort of an embarrassing character in African-American, a black -- a white and black face. But Jim Crow was the institution, indeed. Jim Crow wasn`t a person, it was a caricature. But the institution was to show the difference between blacks and whites.
And what`s amazing, that once we ended slavery in the 1860s, the response was to say that blacks are free but they`re not equal because we immediately started the process of implementing a Jim Crow system, saying that, You are free, but you have to drink at separate water fountains. You have to live in separate communities. You have to work at different places. You don`t have certain basic fundamental rights of citizens because we`re going to separate you by the race. It`s what we call apartheid in South Africa, separation of the races. And it was prevalent, in many respects, around the country up through the time of the Supreme Court`s decision in 1954. And it really didn`t end right away. It continued that day.
LAMB: You have this picture out front in your book, and who`s in there?
OGLETREE:These are all the lawyers whole played a role -- not all of them. It`s a number of the lawyers who played a prominent role in the Brown cases. It`s Thurgood Marshall. He`s joined by Spotswood Robinson. You`ve got Bill Coleman. You`ve got George Redding. You`ve got George E.C. Hayes and a number of the other lawyers who all worked on the case. Jack Greenberg’s there, as well. A number of the other lawyers who were involved, like William Coleman`s not there. Constance Baker Motley`s not there. But a lot of the lawyers who were in Washington came to stand on the steps of the Supreme Court after the case was decided.
LAMB: You say somewhere in your book that your father didn`t -- when it talks about history -- that he wouldn`t have known who Thurgood Marshall was, but would have known who Martin Luther King was.
OGLETREE:Well, and that was a common -- that`s the case today. If you go into any public school, black or white, and you ask them about Martin Luther King, it`s a national holiday, and most people know about that. If you ask them about Thurgood Marshall, most people don`t have a clue. Even most law students don`t have a clue because Thurgood Marshall was such a factor in the law but not publicly known.
And indeed, I have a chapter in the book talking about this tension between Marshall and King. And Thurgood Marshall told an amazing story after he won the case. He got in a cab with a black cab driver going to another part of town in Washington. The cab driver said, Did you hear the good news? He said, What`s that, young man? He says, Well, we won in the Supreme Court today. Oh. What happened? He says, Martin Luther King won the Civil Rights movement. And Thurgood Marshall just had to grin. Here he was, having won this case, and Martin Luther King was again getting credit.
And I talk about the -- the jealousy, envy, the conflict between the two because Marshall believed in the law strongly, that the law -- you had to work through the court system to make it work, and Dr. King believed that the law was unjust, it was morally reprehensible, and that you had to change the law by force -- I mean non-violent force -- by extra-judicial means. And Marshall talked about having to represent King, get him out of trouble, et cetera, and that there was this tension.
And the reality is that they both were important. It was important to win in court, but these decisions weren`t self-effective. That is, that you had to have a mechanism to make them work. And so every time a case was won, there still was the necessity of going to the community and make it work. It`s said "separate but equal" ended in 1954, but the same year, 1955, in Montgomery, Rosa Parks was arrested for sitting in a section reserved for whites on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. The same year, a young man named Emmett Till, a teenager had left Chicago, went down to Mississippi, whistled at a white woman. He was lynched. So America hadn`t changed, in significant ways.
A decade later, in 1963, Dr. King came here, gave the incredible speech in the march on Washington. We only want to remember his first half of the speech, where he says, "I have a dream," but if you read his entire speech, he says there is a nightmare. It`s not a dream today, it`s a nightmare. He says, I`d like my son to be judged by the content of his character, not the color of his skin. But the reality in 1963, his son was still judged by the color of his skin.
He talked about police brutality. He talked about the government writing a bad check for African-Americans with insufficient funds. He talked about a Negro in Mississippi could not vote, and Negroes in New York didn`t have anyone to vote for. So he talked about -- he came to complain about what was happening in America in 1963. So even though we`d made incredible progress, there still was resistance to the idea of changing our nation. And the "all deliberate speed" carries from `54 -- in many respects, it still is current in some aspects of our slow progress toward true integration and true opportunity.
LAMB: Where`d you get the idea to write this book?
OGLETREE:The idea came from a number of sources. First, I wanted folks to know that those of us who have made it shouldn`t try to suggest that we`ve made it on our own, that I knew that there were giants on whose shoulders I stand. I knew that I could be at the highest possible pinnacle at Harvard law school, I could go to a private institution like Stanford University, I can serve on Stanford`s board of trustees, I could have all this prominence, but indeed, I knew that I only made it because Thurgood Marshall and Robert Carter and Constance Baker Motley and Oliver Hill and Jack Greenberg and Bill Coleman and all the others opened up the doors. That`s why, No. 1, to show that I -- none of us would have made it without that change.
The second point is that as we celebrate the 50th anniversary on May 17, 2004, we have to recognize that a lot of work needs to be done because today, in the 21st century, many of the schools that were challenged for segregation in the 1950s are more integrated now -- more segregated now than they were 50 years ago. So we have not achieved the goal that Marshall or Charles Hamilton Houston or any of the other lawyers had in mind.
A second reason I wrote the book was that it`s very interesting to see the change in the Court from Marshall`s time, when he was a lawyer arguing cases and winning 29 out of 32 cases, or Robert Carter winning 21 out of 22 Supreme Court cases. Those were extraordinary accomplishments. And I wanted to show that this dream team -- we`ve never had a group of African-American lawyers as successful or as committed to public interest as we had in the `30s, `40s and `50s. And they`ve set a high-water mark, and I`m challenging all of us who come after them to say we, too, must take on the awesome challenge of trying to promote equality in our country and that we have a high standard to meet, made by these lawyers.
And the final reason for the book was to let young people know, particularly young African-Americans, but all young people to know that everyone can make a difference. I come from a very humble background. We grew up in poverty. We were on public welfare. My parents were seasonal workers. I worked in the fields when I was a kid, picking peaches and almonds and picking cotton. All that was part of my life in California in the 1950s and early `60s. And where you start has no reflection on where you will end.
And I wanted to say that they were proud people, my grandparents, who grew up in Arkansas, my parents, from Mississippi -- from Arkansas and Alabama. They came from humble surroundings, but they were proud and focused on education and made sure that even though they didn`t succeed -- my father finished only the 4th grade, my mother only went to 10th grade -- education was always talked about in our home. And they wanted to make sure that if they could not make it in the segregated South in the 1930s and `40s, that their children, once we were born in the `50s and `60s, would have a better opportunity. And indeed, that`s -- that`s why, to salute those parents who made the ultimate sacrifice for their children to have opportunities in the 20th century.
LAMB: After you graduated from Harvard law school, came to Washington, became a public defender and were about to be sworn in as someone who could argue before the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court bar, you invited your father to come. And your father hadn`t been at your Stanford graduation or your Harvard graduation.
LAMB: What happened?
OGLETREE:It never was clear to me what was going on. My father was a very proud man, but he also was very, I think, embarrassed by his lack of success. I`m graduating from Stanford with honors. My wife is graduating from Stanford. And my father, who had planned to come, didn`t show up. And I`m sure his feeling was, What can I say?
LAMB: This is your father and mother?
OGLETREE:Exactly, in 1982, after my sister had been murdered. His point was that he`s just a poor working-class guy and he couldn`t say he went to school anywhere. He couldn`t say he`d done anything of accomplishment, so he was very embarrassed by that. And the same thing at law school. Now I`m not just a college graduate, but I`m a lawyer now, at graduation from Harvard. And it just was too much for him to take. And I was very disappointed.
And so I worked with my cousin, Zemora Ogletree Eggleston, to try to get her father, who had been separated from my father since they were young -- they were both men in their 70s then. They had left Alabama both, and they had not been together in 40 years. And so she was able to persuade her father to come from Buffalo, New York, here to Washington, where I was a public defender. And I talked to my mother and father to come from California, to come to my swearing-in. I thought it would be important to be in the Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall was there.
And again, what day was it? May 31, 1983, which, again, was the anniversary of the "all deliberate speed," May 31, 1955. So 28 years after that decision, I`m in the Supreme Court, being sworn in.
And the night before, my father called me and said, Junior, I can`t come. And I said, Oh, my God. I remembered college. I remembered law school. What would he say now? I was not going to go for it. This was -- this -- you know, I`d bought him a suit and some nice shoes. He was all traveled, ready to go. The tickets were there. My mother was there, ready to do go.
He said, I can`t come. I said, Why? I said, Why can`t you come? He says, I don`t have a hat. I said, Excuse me? He says, I don`t have a hat. He says, I`ve got all these nice thing, but I don`t have a hat. I can`t travel without a hat.
I was furious. I didn`t know what that meant. It made no sense to me that my father now had an 11th-hour excuse. I talked to my mother, called our local department store in Merced. They were able to take the information over the phone. And she went down with him and he got a hat, and he flew out here. And -- but it was amazing, he would not have come without the hat. But that hat was a metaphor that, I have a lot of pride, but I`m not quite as proud as I could be, son. And if I`m going to be there on your day, I need to look right. He was going to be there to see this colored, lawyer, Thurgood Marshall. And so it was a major event for him.
And I never understood at that moment, but then something else occurred, Brian, that really struck me. I noticed, when I started looking back, Dr. King often wore a hat. Thurgood Marshall often wore a hat. It was a sign of power, a sign of respect, a sign of courage that black men wore these hats. What I didn`t know -- I went back and looked at my college photos. Almost every photo I was in and everything that I was doing, I had a hat. I didn`t even know I liked hats, but I had somehow mysteriously adopted this philosophy of wearing a hat.
And so the book actually has a picture of my father and his brother coming to the Supreme Court in their brand-new hats, with their brand-new suits. And they could not have been two prouder black men than on that day, on May 31, 1983. And it`s amazing to see them grinning and smiling.
LAMB: Which one is your dad?
OGLETREE:On the right. My father is on the right, with the brown hat that matches his nice brown suit. And his brother is the one closest to me. So it`s me, my uncle and my father. And this is taken in the Supreme Court. We took a photograph there before we left.
And they spent time at my house that week. It was amazing to hear them tell stories about growing up, about stealing Miss Thelma`s fruit over the tree or little things they did as kids. And they were remembering Alabama, the most positive moments, and never really talked about the segregation, except they did tell one story that sort of stunned me, that they believed that it was a crime for a black man to look a white woman in the eye. And I never understood that because my father always would -- would not look at -- he`d look -- he would not look you in the eye. He would sort of look askance. I never understood what that was when he did that with white people.
And then I found a case in Alabama that finally made me understand what they were talking about. There was -- 1951, `52, McQuarter (ph) vs. State, a case where an African-American was walking by -- there was a white woman, and did he glance at her? Did he say something to her? What he was charged with and convicted of assault with attempt to commit rape. Never touched her. And so you know how urban legends carry, so the word was a black man looking at a white woman is a crime.
And these men believe that to their death. And it`s amazing that they felt that way about the system, but it tells you something about the South that they grew up in the `30`s and the `40`s and why they both decided to leave Alabama to go to New York and to California.
LAMB: He died how soon after that?
OGLETREE:Well, the father died the next year. We were sworn on May 31, 1983. He died on Saint Patrick`s Day, on March 17, 1984.
LAMB: What were the circumstances of the murder of your sister?
OGLETREE:It was a very tragic case and is still a tragic case. This happened in August 1982. My sister was a police officer. She actually worked in her hometown. She was...
LAMB: Where was that?
OGLETREE:In Merced, California. She was the most loyal of us. As each of us got an educational opportunity, we left Merced. I went to Stanford, my two younger brothers joined the Air Force and were career members of the Air Force. My younger sister got married and moved.
But Barbara Jean Ogletree Scoggins was a police officer, and she and I were always teasing each other about our professions. I`m a defense lawyer, getting people off, and she`s a police officer locking people up. And what we talked about was the fact that as much as we teased each other, we both had values that were respected by the other.
I respected the fact that even though she was a police officer, she would help people make calls to reach their family, she would lend people money, she would give people rides home if they couldn`t get home when they were released. She was, one, a very kind and caring member of the Merced County Sheriff`s Department.
And in August -- on August 17, 1982, she didn`t report to work. And later that day, her co-workers came to her house, came in -- there had been no forcible entry. They found her lying on the floor, stabbed, having bled to death, stabbed in the heart. And her 3-year-old son Alex was lying right there next to her, was crying.
And so, it was a tragic circumstance. It changed my whole philosophy about what I was doing, because I had been a public defender for five years by then. And it made me feel victimized for the first time. And I started figuring out -- I asked my mother, what did they know, who did they find, who have they questioned, what`s the evidence? And I became a zealous victim, I wanted to figure out why my sister, who had done nothing, had been murdered.
And it was a very tough moment for the family because we have never gotten an answer. I placed awards -- rewards out for information. We have memorials there. And as much as we have a sense of who might be responsible, that`s not a way that the criminal justice system works. I even had a friend of mine, Jay Stephens, he was a prosecutor here in Washington in the U.S. Attorney`s Office, and we tried cases together. And after Jay had left the office, he was a U.S. attorney, I asked him whether the Justice Department could look into my sister`s murder. And he told me, well, it`s not a federal crime, it doesn`t have any -- he did, he looked, but nothing was there.
I just wanted it resolved, and I had hoped it would be resolved while my parents were alive. My father died in 1984, and my mother died 2001. And so neither of them were able to at least come to peace with the fact that my sister, their daughter, had been murdered and the case is still unsolved.
LAMB: Where`s the little 3-year-old?
OGLETREE:He`s in California.
LAMB: How is he doing?
OGLETREE:He`s doing fine. He`s working now. My aunt, Nadine Washington, has been very active with him, and Alex, his name is Alex Scoggins, is a hard-working young man and getting his life together. And he has no memory. That`s the sad part. Three years old, he knows that his mother was gone, but you can imagine what it was being there and not being able to help and try to clarify something.
But they tried, and the police officers -- I mean, this is a town that I grew up in. The chief of police is somebody who I played football with. This is a -- we`re all part of the same community. And so it is still tough, and they get my annual call saying, Tony Dossetti, what do you know now, what can you tell me now? And they say, Charlie, we`re still looking, we`re trying to find something, but you know, it`s a cold case. We can`t find anything to warm it up. But I`m never going to forget about it and I`m never going to let it go.
LAMB: Merced, California, is where?
OGLETREE:It really is in the San Joaquin Valley. It`s in the central part of California. It`s the farm country. When you talk about California, people think of Los Angeles, Southern California. They think of San Francisco, Northern California. There`s a vast land in between, and that`s where I grew up. That`s where I and all my brothers and sisters were raised.
LAMB: What`s this picture right here?
OGLETREE:That`s my school with one of my favorite teachers of all time, at elementary school at Galen Clark.
LAMB: You`re top over there on the right, third from the right?
OGLETREE:That`s me, that kid sort of peering over the shoulder, trying to figure out what`s going on.
LAMB: There`s a special look there. We can`t get close on that. What are you doing there?
OGLETREE:I`m being nosey and being curious, trying to figure out what this is all about, as opposed to paying attention when Mrs. Myers was telling us that we should be paying attention to what`s going on.
LAMB: You say that school`s classes that you had were mostly blacks and Hispanics.
LAMB: Any whites in these classes?
OGLETREE:Very few. Our town was a classic Southern town, but it was in the West. Merced, at that time when I grew up, when I was going to Weaver, that`s the first elementary school, and then to Galen Clark. As you can see -- I wish you could see the list of names -- the children in that picture were invariably black and Chicano. One or two whites, who happened to be poor. And you can see the amazing amount of racial concentration, what we call South Merced.
Our community is actually separated by a railroad track. There was a railroad track between the south and the north side of Merced. And much of the commerce, much of the business, the high schools were on the north side of Merced. All the businesses were there. We had a thriving little urban community, but it was self-sufficient. No one came to Merced, south side, to buy things, to do business. It was a place where blacks and browns lived.
LAMB: You talk about affirmative action in your book a lot.
LAMB: Are you an affirmative action person?
OGLETREE:I am -- I am, exhibit A, I`m an affirmative action baby. I would never, ever deny that. I think that -- two things. First of all, just in terms of being able to have these opportunities. I did well in high school, did well in college. I have been very good as a student. What`s interesting is that before I went to Stanford, Stanford had never found a black person from my high school to go. Because they weren`t looking. I`m not the first qualified, but they just weren`t looking. And I know that because I know that there were other people who could have excelled.
And beyond that, not only affirmative action was important to make sure that it was a consideration, but I was rare. A black kid from Merced, California, going to Stanford University. There were a lot of whites, a fair number of women. There were no other people of color going at any real way from that community.
LAMB: So how did that work?
OGLETREE:It worked exceptionally well. I mean, what was amazing, I met my wife there, Pam, who grew up in Baltimore, but she went to Compton High School, and she and her classmates, Michelle Miller and Billy Walker were all the top students at Compton High School. Rick Turner, who`s a dean at the University of Virginia, was at Stanford then, and he recruited all of us. And he would find -- what Rick did -- the man is a genius. He would find these little diamonds in the rough in these either rural or urban areas, and tell them about the opportunity to come to a place like Stanford. And so we took Stanford by storm.
LAMB: But how did you get there? To Stanford. I mean, did somebody reach out and said?
OGLETREE:Well, this is an embarrassing story. Stanford was in all respects an accident. When I was ready to look at colleges, I had decided that there was a very nice college in Southern California I wanted to go to, Occidental. Why? Because they had the best brochure. Very flashy brochure.
Mrs. Jackson was my counselor, and she said, Charles, you shouldn`t be going to Occidental. You should be going to Stanford. I`m a smart kid, I said, Mrs. Jackson, I`m not going to go to Stanford. I don`t want to go all the way to Connecticut, I don`t like the cold weather. I want to go to Occidental.
And she just started laughing hysterically. And then she looked at me and said, Charles, Stanford is not in Connecticut, it`s right here in California. It`s two hours north of Merced.
I was embarrassed. I was completely embarrassed. I`d heard of Harvard, I`d heard of these other places, I`d never heard of Stanford, didn`t know it was a major private institution, didn`t know anything about it, and really didn`t know anyone who had gone. And so she shared that with me.
And so I was embarrassed to go and apply and visit the school, and it was love at first sight. It was a different thing. I had my own bed. I had three meals a day. I had a whole lot of friends. I had -- it was a totally different environment.
When I showed up there, it was -- the other black students, when I told them I was from Merced, we had people from Chicago, and New York, from Texas, a lot from Southern California. Reggie Turner, a good friend, right from East Palo Alto. Lynette was from Atlanta.
And they asked me, where are you from? I said, from Merced. And they said, is that some place in the South? They didn`t know, they`d never heard of it, people in California or anywhere else. So I looked like and sounded like I was as from as deep in the South as one could imagine. So I made it clear that I was going to do my work, get things done, and I had three outstanding years there, graduated in three years, stayed on my fourth year to get my master`s degree, and then decided it was time to do something else.
LAMB: Go back to the words affirmative action. Did somebody say, Charles Ogletree, we want you because you`re black?
LAMB: I mean, where did you benefit personally from affirmative action?
OGLETREE:For two reasons. One is that a place like Stanford said that we want a diverse group of students. Not everyone who looks the same. And Stanford looked all white for a very long time. It`s not that there weren`t blacks who qualified, they just weren`t looking for them.
So Stanford started looking for diversity. That is, we want to find people who are otherwise qualified, but who are diverse, number one. And number two, African-Americans had a history of past discrimination in institutions. That is that there were actual roadblocks -- and Stanford is not nearly as guilty as so many other institutions that had explicit policies and explicit plans to keep blacks and others out, Jews particularly. A lot of schools had quotas to keep Jews from attending, or other barriers.
But the idea of having somebody African-American made a difference. That is that they wanted to find among all the qualified people people who also happened to be people who were diverse. And so there never was a sign on my door saying you`re a black student, or that you`re an affirmative action admit. They said that you still have to perform like everyone else to get in here. You still have to take every single exam to pass. And you still have to meet all the requirements to leave here. And that`s exactly what I did, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in three years.
LAMB: This picture right here is from where?
OGLETREE:Oh, boy, that`s my graduation at Stanford, June 1975. That`s a bittersweet occasion. Because we learned that spring as we were about to graduate that the president of the university had selected Daniel Moynihan as a commencement speaker. We were troubled by that, because Daniel Moynihan had written books called "The Melting Pot" and other things that we thought were disparaging in some respects of African-American families, particularly African-American mothers. And we thought, many of us by then, my mother and father had been separated, were divorced by 1975. And there were a number of single parents who had raised many of the young people who were there at Stanford with me.
And we thought our parents had done well, and we didn`t think it was an appropriate way for us to celebrate our most important day in life, that is graduating from Stanford, to have Moynihan as a symbol. And so what we did, we wrote our parents. We -- black students sat down, put together a letter, told our parents to come to Stanford. We were going to have a separate graduation, because we wanted them to appreciate what they had done, their sacrifices.
They came a day early. We had St. Clair Drake, who was my mentor and advisor. He was a professor who had been at Roosevelt University. He had written a book called "Black Metropolis." A great man. Often had a cigarette in his hand, riding a bicycle across the Stanford campus. A pan-Africanist, one of my great heroes.
He spoke that night, Saturday night to our parents, and talked about how important it was, and he talked about his friends, like Kwame Nkrumah, he talked about Julius Nyerere, who was the president of Tanzania, and he talked about Africa and the Diaspora.
And we told our parents, there`s something else you should know, that tomorrow is our graduation. It`s the most important day for us, but we should let you know that we`re not happy that Daniel Moynihan is speaking, because we think that does not respect you. And we know you`ve come here to see us graduate, but we`re going to march out. We`re not going to be disrespectable, we`re not going to be disruptive, we`re not going to demonstrate, we`re going to be very obedient. But when Daniel Moynihan gets up to speak, we plan to get up and march out. We simply want you to know that.
And our parents, to our surprise, after a lot of tears and sadness and happiness, said, we understand it, and you go ahead and do that.
And so, just as he was introduced, we got up, and we started walking out. And then Chicano students started walking out. And then I saw Richard Kelly -- Richard Kelly is a 7-foot-1 white basketball player on the Stanford basketball team, and Rich got up and walked out. A good friend of mine. And then the parents went out.
And when I was going out, there was a woman who told me -- a black woman who said, son, help me out. I didn`t know who she was. It turned out her name was Ruby Edwards, she was the grandmother of Belinda Edwards, from Atlanta. And I said, no, you don`t have to do this. She says, no, son, just help me out.
And her point was that she`d marched with Dr. King down South. She had made great sacrifices. She was not going to let her daughter -- or granddaughter`s graduation be damaged by having us feel less than whole. And so she said that I fought against different types of prejudice in the South. And I`m going to do it right here in the West. And she helped me -- let me help her carry her out, and it was the proudest moment of my life, to not just be going out, but to have this civil rights icon who had marched with Dr. King becoming a part of it.
And at that moment, it made me realize that we were -- we had arrived. We had grown to a level of maturity, to understand that it`s not just enough to go to these institutions and get the great educations. We have to make sacrifices, and we have to reach back. Whenever we make it over the threshold, we have to reach back and bring others with us. And it`s not about a handout, it`s a hand up. Lifting people up. And that was -- that has been the theme of the book, the theme of my story. We have to uplift and lift up others, because we have been uplifted and lifted up our entire lives.
LAMB: Let me ask you first, you indicated in the book that they still have a black graduation ceremony the day before at Stanford?
OGLETREE:It`s interesting, the students who are doing this at Stanford now have no idea why they`re doing it, except it`s a celebration. On Saturday, they call it the baccalaureate ceremony. It`s not just African-Americans, but it`s Native Americans, it`s Hispanics and it`s Asian-Americans. They all have a baccalaureate where they have a ceremony.
The African-American students, there are over 1,000 people there, because it`s a large number of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and sometimes siblings, and friends, who come, and they fill the entire Memorial Church -- and it`s a very emotional ceremony, because for most of these families it`s the first person to graduate from college. It`s still the first, in the year 2003 or 2004. We haven`t made that much progress, that there are a lot of legacies, second generation.
And so the ceremony begins when the student is graduating, they stand up, and either a sibling or a child, sometimes, or a parent or a grandparent will come up and put a kente cloth around them. It`s sort of the rights of passage, is what you`d call it.
And it`s funny, I spoke a few years ago at one of the ceremonies, and it`s amazing because the students have no idea that this celebration was an original protest. It was a challenge to the sense of not being considered worthy of having a speaker that reflected the diversity of what that Stanford student body showed.
And so it`s sort of humorous now that they have these sessions in a popular way, and then because they get lost. I mean, all these students, at least for the grandparents, when Stanford has thousands of people graduating, John Smith doesn`t mean anything in a crowd of thousands. But here if you`re one of 200, and you have a moment of recognition, there`s a whole booklet put together -- it`s that one little recognition doing something very special at a place like Stanford.
And let me also say, people say, oh, that`s segregation, and that`s -- that -- these students, we are still in a predominantly white institution. We still are required and must meet every academic challenge that`s there, and we still go into the world. We`re not black doctors or black lawyers or black teachers. We are doctors, lawyers, teachers, and business leaders, having received first-rate education.
And so it`s a sense of having a little bit of community on one hand, but then being part of a larger community at the same hand. And Stanford celebrates all of its minority alumni, 2004, with a major gathering to come back and examine how much people have progressed. People like Jerry Yang, the head of Yahoo!, is a Stanford graduate. Mae Jemison, who was the first African-American woman to go on to -- as an astronaut. A Stanford graduate. Maria Echaveste, who was the deputy chief of staff for President Clinton. Rick West, who runs the Native American Museum here in Washington, D.C. These are among the sort of giants who showed the diversity and excellence, that they`re interchangeable and not in conflict.
One other thing I want to say, I actually mention it in the book, about this, because a lot of people keep thinking of affirmative action as a reflection of inequality or substandard. In the Michigan case, I was...
LAMB: The recent Michigan case?
OGLETREE:Michigan case, 2003. The Supreme Court case on diversity and affirmative action. Even Chief Justice Rehnquist realized what was at stake. This is not about under qualified, subpar students. What he said in that case was this: "The university has considered African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans to be underrepresented minorities and admits virtually every qualified applicant from these groups."
Qualified. I don`t know a place in America where you can say I`m black, let me in. I`m black, give me a job. I`m black, give me a promotion. Doesn`t happen that way. When I first saw the word "qualified" applicant, I said, wait a minute, why do you put qualified there? Because that is exactly what it requires. And I think part of the myth is that people focus on certain aspects, whether it`s an achievement test or other factors, but my colleague at Harvard School of Education, Howard Gardner, has written an amazing book, talks about people should be judged by what he calls "multiple excellencies." It`s not just how you perform on a test. You can be artistic, you can be collaborative, you can have a whole host of skills and talents, and those all contribute to the wholeness of a person, and to the collective strength of a group.
And that`s what diversity is about. You don`t want a football team with 11 quarterbacks and no linemen. You don`t want a basketball team with all guards and no centers. You want people with different strengths, different skills, different responsibilities. And together, it`s a much stronger unit and a much more productive unit.
And even then, Brian, I was startled when I wrote this book to look at the Michigan case more carefully. My classmate, John Payton, from Harvard Law School, argued the case. He won in the District Court. He won in the Sixth Circuit, and he won in the Supreme Court. And John was able to pull together this incredible data that showed that the majority of the black students, and the majority of the white students who attend the University of Michigan, come from segregated high schools. That is, if you`re black, most of those black students come from black schools. And most of the whites come from white schools.
It means the first opportunity that many of these children have had to see someone different than them is in college. We can`t be the United States of America, we cannot be a diverse nation and have people go through 18 formative years and never encounter someone different from them. That`s exactly what Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, Bill Coleman, Constance Baker Motley, Robert Carter, Spotswood Robinson, that`s what they fought for. They just wanted to say we are better as a nation if we all come together in some way and create a much stronger United States of America, and that`s what this book is about.
LAMB: Not much time left, but let me go back to something that -- and you know you get an argument on this, that you have a special graduation for blacks or Native Americans, whatever. Will the day come where you will no longer need a black student union on a campus?
LAMB: When do you think that will happen?
OGLETREE:I hope it happens in my lifetime. There`s a very interesting book that was written about Justice Powell, when the Supreme Court was hearing the Bakke case in 1978. And I may be getting the two parties wrong, but Justice Powell`s thought was that the whole issue of complete diversity and complete integration could happen in 10 years. Justice Marshall said, no, it will take a century. This is 1978. When the Bakke case occurred in 1978, when I was finishing Harvard Law School, I thought it would happen in 25 years. I thought by now we would be there.
But we aren`t. I think that Justice O`Connor has written an opinion in the Michigan affirmative action case as saying that she hopes that in 25 years from now, that is in the year 2028, that there would no longer be a need for these affirmative action programs.
I hope she`s right. I have just been appointed to be the director of a new institute at Harvard called the Charles Hamilton Houston Race and Justice Institute, and one of first things I plan to do is take up what I call the O`Connor Project. I want to seriously examine, with social scientists and other experts, to what extent can we pursue Justice O`Connor`s challenge, let`s try to make the issue of race less necessary.
I know I`m going up against the fact that we`re more segregated now than we were before. We have 40 or 50 percent dropout rates of African-Americans and Hispanics in many of our urban areas. We have lower health care in the African-American community than some third-world countries. We still have what people call predatory lending, that African-Americans have to pay more when they`re getting loans. Can`t move into certain neighborhoods. My daughter Rashida worked for a fair housing agency and would send black couples out in the 21st century, in the year 2000. They would be told that no apartments available, and then a white couple would come back, 10 minutes later -- this is the year 2000, 2001 -- and they`d get the same apartment.
And so I know as much as we have made progress, as much as I and others have made it over, we still have those problems. So this institute will allow us to do what all of us want. I want to do what Thurgood Marshall wanted. I want to do what Charles Hamilton Houston wanted. I want us to have a color-blind and a race-neutral society. We`re not there yet, but I`m hopeful that we will be there in my lifetime.
LAMB: This is the cover of the book. We are talking about Brown vs. the Board of Education, 50 years later. Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., our guest. It`s called "All Deliberate Speed," and we thank you for your time.
OGLETREE:Thank you, Brian, I appreciate it.
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