Houston, Charles H. (1895–1950)

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HOUSTON, CHARLES H. (1895–1950)

Charles H. Houston was the foremost black civil rights lawyer before thurgood marshall. He was a member of the faculty of Howard Law School and from 1932 to 1935 served as dean. He obtained accreditation and respect for the institution, which trained many civil rights lawyers. From 1935 to 1940 Houston was special counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Although he returned to private practice thereafter, he remained active with the NAACP and other civil rights organizations. Marshall later called him "The First Mr. Civil Rights." Houston was of counsel in nixon v. condon (1932), arguing against the white primary, and he assisted in the defense of the Scottsboro Boys. He argued and won missouri ex rel. gaines v. canada (1938), which forced the state to open its law school to black students. He also won from the Supreme Court decisions prohibiting discrimination against black railroad employees. Perhaps his most difficult and greatest victory came in hurd v. hodge (1948), in which the Court accepted his arguments that the civil rights act of 1866 outlawed the judicial enforcement of restrictive covenants by the courts of the district of columbia, and that even in the absence of the congressional act, the enforcement of such covenants would violate the public policy of the United States.

Leonard W. Levy


Mc Neil, Genna Rae 1982 Charles Hamilton Houston and the Struggle for Civil Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

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Houston, Charles H. (1895–1950)

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Houston, Charles H. (1895–1950)