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Schnader’s Role in the Civil Rights Movement

On July 1, 2022 by Schnader in News

President Lyndon Johnson made the passage of slain President Kennedy’s civil rights bill his top priority during the first year of his administration, and 58 years ago, on July 2, 1964, President Johnson signed the bill into law. The law’s eleven sections prohibited discrimination in the workplace, public accommodations and facilities, and agencies receiving federal funds. It also strengthened prohibitions on segregation in schools and discrimination in voter registration.

Schnader played an active role in the civil rights movement early on. When George Wallace threatened to defy a federal court order requiring integration of the University of Alabama, Bernard Segal, one of the Firm’s founding partners, drafted a statement in opposition. He and partner Jerome Shestack called lawyers all over the country requesting their support. The statement was published on June 10, 1963, with a list of 53 prominent lawyers who supported it. It read in part:

If the issues that trouble the nation are to be peacefully resolved all parties must respect the law… Lawyers have a special responsibility to support the rule of law in our society and to obey the fundamental legal principles that guarantee safety and justice for all.

Following the response to George Wallace’s threatened opposition to the integration of the University of Alabama, President Kennedy, at the urging of Bernard Segal, convened 244 leading American lawyers recruited by Segal and Shestack in the White House on June 21, 1963. President Kennedy, who was joined by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, asked the 244 lawyers, who were from around the United States and included leaders of state bars, the ABA, and 50 African American lawyers, to move the battle for the protection of civil rights and racial equality from the streets to the courts. This meeting gave birth to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. President Kennedy asked Bernard Segal to chair the Lawyers’ Committee which was tasked with marshaling the resources of the private bar, engaging in public policy advocacy and education, and providing pro bono legal assistance to victims of discrimination. The Lawyers’ Committee continues to this day to lead the struggle for civil rights.

Jerome Shestack served as the first executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee while continuing to practice full-time at Schnader. Under Shestack’s leadership, the Committee sent attorneys to Mississippi to defend civil rights workers. The Committee also participated in a federal suit challenging the constitutionality of parade ordinances after hundreds of demonstrators were arrested in Jackson for protesting restrictive voting bills.

President Lyndon Johnson appointed William Brown III to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1968 and President Richard Nixon named Mr. Brown its Chairman in 1969. He served as the EEOC’s fourth Chairman from May 5, 1969 to December 23, 1973. Under Brown’s leadership, the EEOC tackled workplace issues related to adverse impact, job-testing validation, and national origin discrimination. Brown won national recognition for his fairness and diligence. He joined Schnader in 1974 as its first African American partner.

The Firm’s tradition of pro bono service began with our founding partners. As our Firm grows, we welcome new lawyers and staff who themselves have understood that a part of our history and our professional duty is to make a difference in working to eradicate injustice and advance the common good. We continue to adhere to this important element of the Firm’s culture that was first established by our founders.

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