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McDougall, Gay J. 1947–

Gay J. McDougall 1947

Lawyer, civil rights activist

Began Law Career

Led Southern Africa Project

Conquered New Turf

Selected writings

Sources

Gay McDougall made history in 1994 as the first African American to be appointed to the Washington, D.C.-based International Human Rights Law Group. Such landmark achievements have been typical for McDougall, however. A civil rights activist and international lawyer, she has perhaps been most noted for her role in loosening the grip of apartheidlegally sanctioned racial discriminationon South Africa. Recently, she has been at work on behalf of the oppressed peoples of other countries as well, including Haiti, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Bosnia.

McDougall was born in Dixie Hills, a northwest neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia, on August 13, 1947, just as the civil right movement was gaining momentum. Her mother, Inez Gay Johnson, was a high school mathematics teacher active in the church, and her father, Louis Johnson, was a hospital cook. McDougall and her mother had several aunts who were employed as social workers. These female role models sowed the seeds of McDougalls desire to weave social concerns into her professional life. These women were not her only mentors. Growing up in Atlanta during the height of the civil rights era, she saw prominent figures of the movement such as Stokely Carmichael, Julian Bond, and Martin Luther King, Jr., working practically down the street.

Began Law Career

McDougall attended English Avenue and Anderson Park elementary school and then attended Booker T. Washington High School. McDougall enrolled in Agnes Scott College, a womens school in Decatur, Georgia, in 1965. Every year Booker T. Washington High School applied for one black student to go to the all-white school, but no one was ever accepted. So, McDougall was stunned when she discovered she had been chosen to attend the elite school. The only black student on campus, she was lonely, and so frustrated by the conservative and highly traditional attitudes and curriculum of the school that, in 1968, she transferred to Bennington College, in Bennington, Vermont. After graduating from Bennington in 1969, she enrolled in Yale Law School and received her law degree in 1972. At both Bennington and Yale, she found a far freer atmosphere that nurtured her growing social conscience. She took an enthusiastic part in voter registration drives and civil rights projects and developed a keen interest in the proliferating African independence movements as well as the United States march towards true racial equality.

Upon graduation from Yale in 1972, McDougall put her civil rights activities on hold for a short time, while she worked for the New York City-based corporate law firm of Debevoise, Plimpton, Lyons & Gates. I really was there to learn to be the best professional that I could be, because I thought that the issues that I cared about deserve that, she told the Washington Post. The training she wanted took her two years to achieve. She also trained as a legal clerk while still in law school at Cravath, Swaine, and Moore, another New York law firm. After that, having saved a large proportion of her salary, she was able to follow her true wish and work as

At a Glance

Born on August 13, 1947, in Atlanta, GA. Education: Attended Agnes Scott College, 1965-67; Bennington College, BA, 1969; Yale Law School, ID, 1972; London School of Economics, MA, 1978.

Career: Debevoise, Plimpton, Lyons & Gates, legal aide, 1972-74; National Conference of Black Lawyers, general counsel, 1970s; City of New York, Board of Corrections, 1980; Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Southern Africa Project, director, 1980-94; International Human Rights Law Group, executive director, 1994-.

Memberships: National Conference of Black Lawyers; Black Forum on Foreign Policy; International Federation of Women Lawyers.

Selected awards: Candace Award, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, 1990.

Addresses: Office International Human Rights Law Group, 1601 Connecticut Ave., NW, Ste. 700, Washington, DC 20009.

an unpaid employee for the non-profit National Conference on Black Lawyers (NCBL) in Washington, D.C.

The NCBL was formed in 1968, partly to help minorities and the poor with legal problems, racial issues, and matters concerning voters rights. The NCBL also addressed international civil rights concerns. Perfectly in tune with the organizations mission, McDougall soon became the NCBL representative to the United Nations (UN), and gained a unique opportunity to fuse her legal training and her civil rights interests by forming a task force to study the increasingly visible African liberation movements. Working for the NCBL was a stimulating experience that she enjoyed.

After two years with the NCBL, McDougall took a job with the New York City Board of Corrections. The Board of Corrections was formed shortly after 43 inmates were killed in the Attica Prison riot in September of 1971. An adjudicating body, the board dealt with the issues that had led to the uprising: inadequate medical attention, poor work wages, unresolved dietary concerns, and insufficient fresh air and exercise. McDougall tackled these issues with zest, then decided to return to the international human rights arena.

McDougall believed that further education would ease her transition into international law so, in 1978, she obtained her Masters degree from the London School of Economics. Long favored as an educational institution by international humanitarian and liberation movements, the London School had trained Jomo Kenyatta, eventual president of Kenya as well as the contemporary leaders of the struggle for independence in Zimbabwe and South Africa whom she met when she arrived. It was one of the best moves Ive made in my life, in terms of the people I met, who inspired me and centered me and helped me find exactly what I think in many ways, McDougall explained in the Washington Post.

Led Southern Africa Project

In 1980 McDougall returned to the United States to find a new challenge on her home turf ably provided by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The civil rights group was formed in the early 1960s to provide legal backing for racial equality issues. Using its connections to human rights groups based in other parts of the world, the Lawyers Committee tried to help counteract the South African governments increasingly sinister record of detentions, tortures, and bannings.

As a result, the Lawyers Committee formed the Southern Africa Project, charged with the responsibility of making contact with South African lawyers for the purpose of providing them legal assistance to aid South African victims of racism or torture. The Southern Africa Project also provided reports for both the U.S. government and the UN regarding situations in other southern African countries. For example, in 1979, the organization released a 72-page report that played a large part in then U.S.-President Jimmy Carters decision against unilaterally lifting sanctions against Rhodesia. The sanctions had been set in place because Rhodesias white minority government had illegally declared independence from Great Britain, but many felt the penalties were hurting the black citizens as well as the government.

McDougall was asked to direct the Southern Africa Project, a post she kept until 1994. She took part in symposiums and accessed reports that documented a horrifying record of tortures and murders, all aimed at keeping apartheid intact. However, as McDougall noted in a paper called Proposals for a New United States Policy Towards South Africa, delivered during a 1988 human rights symposium, South Africa was not confining its policies to its own borders. The African country of Namibia, whose independence from South Africa had just been announced, was also under pressure by the South African government, which was attempting to maneuver the upper hand in the upcoming Namibian elections.

McDougall saw to it that the aggression of the South African government towards Namibia was thwarted by the Southern Africa Project. She founded a new group called the Commission on Independence for Namibia that consisted of 31 distinguished policymakers from the community. She supervised the commissions monitoring of a UN-mandated system instituted to ensure ethical voting in the 1989 Namibian elections. Her efforts at securing a fair election were successful, as 96 percent of the people of Namibia cast their ballots. Discussing the success of the Southern Africa Project McDougall was quoted in the Washington Post as having said, I would say we have been responsible for getting literally thousands of people out of jail. We helped to mount cases that challenged a lot of apartheid laws and caused many of them to be overturned. We helped communities who were being forcibly removed to get legal counsel to resist, and a lot of them won.

The beginning of the 1990s found McDougall married to John Payton, a partner in the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler, and Pickering who went with McDougall to Africa to support her in her endeavors there. It also found her with even more challenging duties. Sanctions against South Africa, plus a rising red tide of antiapartheid violence were now making majority rule in that country inevitable. With the prison release of South African political activist Nelson Mandela, McDougall began to spend long periods in South Africa, unraveling constitutional knots and helping to dismantle the hundreds of laws that had locked apartheid into place. Additionally, she was asked to join 15 other experts on the Independent Electoral Commission, that was given the task of supervising the countrys first multiracial election process. The commissions duties varied widely, dealing with the logistics of setting up more than 150,000 voting booths and other electoral equipment nationwide, plus printing and transporting more than 80 million voting ballots from England. Communications projects were needed to persuade the countrys estimated 22 million voters to come to the polls. Also, strategic methods needed to be designed to best ensure fairness in the election.

Not all South Africans were convinced the 1994 election would go smoothly. Primarily Zulu, the Inkatha Political Party, lead by Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthulezi, refused to take part in the elections until a scant five days before the polling began. Reasons for the boycott included a fear that, if the party lost the election to Nelson Mandelas African National Congress (ANC), the Zulu homelands would be abolished as prescribed by the new constitution, and Buthulezis power would be removed. Despite the threatened boycott, and a wave of violence surrounding the political parties involved, McDougall remained confident. We are committed to pulling off this election on April 26, 27, and 28, she said in USA Today. Her efforts were successful.

Conquered New Turf

After playing such a large role in setting South Africa firmly on its course towards majority rule, McDougall began to focus her attention on other tragic corners of the world. In September of 1994, she accepted a new position as executive director of the International Human Rights Law Group (IHRLG), a Washington-based international advocacy organization devoted to helping frontline advocates protect human rights around the world. Under McDougalls direction, one of the IHR-LGs initiatives involved monitoring the repressive military regime of Haiti and its subsequent U.S.-led occupation.

During her illustrious career, McDougall has practiced law before the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeals of the State of New York. She has written numerous articles concerning human rights around the world and she has served on the board of such organizations as CARE, Africa Watch, the International Human Rights Law Group, and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation. In 1990 the National Coalition of 100 Black Women presented McDougall with a Candace Award. In 1999 McDougall was one of 32 distinguished individuals who received MacArthur Fellowships. She received a $350,000 fellowship. According to Jet magazine, The fellows are selected by the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. Mac-Arthur Foundation, a private independent grantmaking institution dedicated to helping groups and individuals foster lasting improvement in the human condition.

McDougalls IHRLG appointment was just one of the latest in a long list of accomplishments that have positively impacted the international human rights arena. Influenced early in her life by family members, as well as major civil rights activists, she developed quite a consciousness with regard to social issues. This sense of commitment has served her well during her career as advocate for those world citizens that have been forced to live under less than humane conditions.

Selected writings

Deaths in Detention and South Africas Security Laws, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 1983.

Nambia: UN Resolution 435 and the Independence of Namibia, 1989.

South Africas Death Squads, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 1990.

Sources

Books

Notable Black American Women, Book 2, Gale Research, 1996.

Writers Directory, 19th edition, St. James Press, 2003.

Periodicals

Jet, July 12, 1999, p. 6.

New Pittsburgh Courier, November 5, 1994, p. A2.

New York Amsterdam News, October 29, 1994, p. 22.

USA Today, March 31, 1994, p. 6A.

Washington Informer, November 9, 1994, p. 18.

Washington Post, December 7, 1989, p. B3., April 26, 1994, p. E1.

Other

Additional information for this biography was obtained from Annual Report, Southern Africa Project, 1979-80.

Gillian Wolf and Catherine V. Donaldson

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"McDougall, Gay J. 1947–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"McDougall, Gay J. 1947–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved June 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mcdougall-gay-j-1947-0

McDougall, Gay J. 1947—

Gay J. McDougall 1947

Attorney, civil rights activist

Began Professional Career

Had Interest in Africa

Directed the Southern Africa Project

Helped Seek Namibian Independence

Focused on South Africa

Conquered New Fields

Selected writings

Sources

Gay McDougall made history in 1994 as the first African American to be appointed to the Washington, D.C.-based International Human Rights Law Group. Such landmark achievements have been typical for McDougall, however. A civil rights activist and international lawyer, she has perhaps been most noted for her role in loosening the grip of apartheid on South Africa. Recently, she has been at work on behalf of the oppressed peoples of other countries as well including Haiti, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Bosnia.

McDougall was Born in Atlanta in 1947, just as the civil right movement was beginning to grow. Her mother was a teacher and also active in the church. Additionally, Mcdougall had several aunts who were employed as social workers. It was these female role models who sowed the seeds of her desire to weave social concerns into her professional life. These women were not her only mentors, however. Growing up in Atlanta during the height of the civil rights era, she saw prominent figures of the movement such as Stokely Carmichael, Julian Bond, and Martin Luther King, Jr. working practically down the street.

McDougall enrolled in Agnes Scott College, a womens school in Decatur, Georgia in 1965. The only black student on campus, she was lonely, and so frustrated by the conservative and highly traditional attitudes and curriculum of the school that, in 1968, she transferred to Bennington College, in Bennington, Vermont. After graduation from Bennington in 1969, she enrolled in Yale Law School and received her law degree in 1972. At both Bennington and Yale, she found a far freer atmosphere which nurtured her growing social conscience. She took an enthusiastic part in voter registration drives and civil rights projects, and developed a keen interest in the proliferating African independence movements as well as the United States march towards true racial equality.

Began Professional Career

Upon graduation from Yale in 1972, McDougall put her civil rights activities on hold for a short time, while she worked for the New York City-based corporate law firm of Debevoise, Plimpton, Lyons & Gates. I really was there to learn to be the best professional that I could be, because I thought that the issues that I cared about deserve that, she told the Washington Post.The training she wanted took her two years to achieve. After that, having saved a large proportion of her salary, she was able to follow her true wish and work as an unpaid employee for the not-for-profit National Conference on Black Lawyers (NCBL) in Washington, D.C.

The NCBL was formed in 1968, partly to help minorities and the poor with legal problems, racial issues and matters concerning voters rights. The NCBL also addressed international civil rights concerns. Perfectly in

At a Glance

Born August 13, 1947, in Atlanta, CA, Education: Agnes Scott College, 1965-67; Bennington College, 1967-1969; J.D.Yale Law School, 1972; London School of Economics (MA in public international law).

Career: Debevoise, Plimpton, Lyons & Gates; General Counsel, National Conference of Black Lawyers, NY City Board of Corrections, 1980; Director of the Southern Africa Project, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law, 1980-1994; September, 1994 Executive director of the International Human Rights Law Group.

Member: National Conference of Black Lawyers; Black Forum on Foreign Policy; International Federation of Women Lawyers.

Awards: Candace Award, 1990, Presented by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.

tune with the organizations mission, McDougall soon became the NCBL representative to the United Nations, and gained a unique opportunity to fuse her legal training and her civil rights interests by forming a task force to study the increasingly visible African liberation movements. Working for the NCBL was a stimulating experience that she enjoyed for two years.

After two years with the NCBL, McDougall took a job with the New York City Board of Corrections. The Board of Corrections was formed shortly after 43 inmates were killed in the Attica Prison riot of September 1971. An adjudicating body, the board dealt with the issues that had led to the uprising; inadequate medical attention, poor work wages, unresolved dietary concerns, and insufficient fresh air and exercise. McDougall tackled these issues with zest decided to return to the international human rights arena.

Had Interest in Africa

McDougall believed that further education would ease her transition into international law so, in 1977, she obtained her masters degree from the London School of Economics. Long favored as an educational institution by international humanitarian and liberation movements, the London School had trained Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya as well as the contemporary leaders of the struggle for independence in Zimbabwe and South Africa whom she met when she arrived. It was one of the best moves Ive made in my life, in terms of the people I met, who inspired me and centered me and helped me find exactly what I think in many ways, McDougall told the Washington Post.

In 1980 McDougall returned to the United States to find a new challenge on her home turf. The challenge was offered by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a civil rights group that was formed in the early 1960s to provide legal backing for racial equality issues. In 1967, however, with connections to human rights groups based in other parts of the world, the Lawyers Committee responded to requests for help to counteract the South African governments increasingly sinister record of detentions, tortures and bannings.

As a result, the Lawyers Committee formed the Southern Africa Project. The Project was charged with the responsibility of making contact with South African lawyers for the purpose of providing them legal assistance to aid South African victims of racism or torture. The Southern Africa Project also provided reports for both the U.S. government and the United Nations. The Project was formed too late to help Steve Biko, an anti-apartheid activist who was tortured and murdered in 1977 by the South African security police. The Project was quite effective in 1979, however, when it released a 72-page report that played a large part in then U.S.-President Jimmy Carters decision against unilaterally lifting sanctions against Rhodesia.

Directed the Southern Africa Project

Highly qualified in the field of international public law, McDougall was asked to direct the Southern Africa Project, a post she kept until 1994. She took part in symposiums and accessed reports all which documented a horrifying record of tortures and murders, all aimed at keeping apartheid intact. However, as McDougall noted in a paper called Proposals for a New United States Policy Towards South Africa, delivered during a 1988 human rights symposium, South Africa was not confining its policies to its own borders. The African country of Namibia, whose independence from South Africa had just been announced, was also under pressure by the South African government which was attempting to maneuver the upper hand in the upcoming Namibian elections.

Helped Seek Namibian Independence

McDougall saw to it that the aggression of the South African government towards Namibia was thwarted by the Southern Africa Project. She founded a new group called the Commission on Independence for Namibia, that consisted of 31 distinguished policymakers from the community. She supervised the Commissions monitoring of a United Nations-mandated system instituted to ensure ethical voting in the 1989 Namibian elections. Her efforts at securing a fair election were successful, as 96 percent of the people of Namibia cast their ball.

Focused on South Africa

The beginning of the 1990s found McDougall with even more challenging duties. Sanctions against South Africa, plus a rising red tide of anti-apartheid violence were now making majority rule in that country inevitable. With the prison release of South African political activist Nelson Mandela, McDougall began to spend long periods in South Africa, unraveling constitutional knots and helping to dismantle the hundreds of laws that had locked apartheid into place. Additionally, she was also asked to join 15 other experts on the Independent Electoral Commission, that was given the task of supervising the countrys first multiracial election process. The Commissions duties varied wi Jely. They dealt with the logistics of setting up more than 150,000 voting booths and other electoral equipment nationwide, plus printing and transporting more than 80 million voting ballots from England. Communications projects needed to e set up to persuade the countrys estimated 22 million voters to come to the polls. Also, strategic methods to be designed to best ensure fairness in the election.

Not all South Africans were convinced the 1994 election would go smoothly. The primarily Zulu Inkatha Political Party, lead by Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthulezi, refused to take part in the elections until a scant five days before the polling began. Reasons for the boycott included a fear that, if the party lost the election to Nelson Mandelas African National Congress, the Zulu homelands would be abolished as prescribed by the new constitution, and Buthulezis power would be removed. Despite the threatened boycott, and a wave of violence surrounding the political parties involved, McDougall remained confident. We are committed to pulling off this election on April 26, 27 and 28, she said in USA Today.Her efforts paid off.

Conquered New Fields

After playing such a large role in setting South Africa firmly on its course towards majority rule, McDougall began to focus her attention on other tragic corners of the world. In September of 1994, she accepted a new position as executive director of the International Human Rights Law Group (IHRLG), a Washington-based international advocacy organization devoted to helping frontline advocates protect human rights around the world. Under McDougalls direction, one of thelHRLGs initiatives involved monitoring the repressive military regime of Haiti and its subsequent U.S.-led occupation. McDougalls appointment to the position of executive director of the IHRLG was just one of the latest in a long list of accomplishments that have positively impacted the international human rights arena. Influenced early in her life by family members, as well as major civil rights activists, she developed quite a consciousness with regard to social issues. This sense of commitment has served her well during her career as advocate for those world citizens that have been forced to live under less than humane conditions.

Selected writings

Deaths in Detention and South Africas Security

Laws, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 1983.

South Africas Death Squads, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 1990.

Sources

New Pittsburgh Courier, November 5, 1994, p. A2.

New York Amsterdam News, October 29, 1994, p. 22.

Southern Africa Project, Annual Report, 197980.

USA Today, March 31, 1994, p. 6A.

Washington Informer, November 9, 1994, p. 18.

Washington Post, December 7, 1989, p. B3.,

April 26, 1994, p. El.

Additional information for this biography was obtained from Annual Report, Southern Africa Project, 1979-80.

Gillian Wolf

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"McDougall, Gay J. 1947—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"McDougall, Gay J. 1947—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mcdougall-gay-j-1947

"McDougall, Gay J. 1947—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved June 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mcdougall-gay-j-1947