Robert L. Carter, who as an NAACP civil rights attorney was an architect of the legal strategy used in the cases that led to Brown vs. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared school segregation unconstitutional, has died. He was 94.
Carter, a former U.S. district judge for the southern district of New York, died Tuesday in a hospital in Manhattan after suffering a stroke last week, said his son David.
With law degrees from Howard University School of Law and Columbia Law School, where he wrote his master’s thesis on the 1st Amendment, Carter initially considered an academic career.
Instead, fired up by the racism he experienced while serving as a second lieutenant in the Army Air Forces during World War II, he went to work at the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1944.
His Army experience, he wrote in “A Matter of Law,” his 2005 memoir, “made a militant of me, and instilled in me a fierce determination to fight against racism with all my intellectual and physical strength.”
As chief legal assistant to general counsel Thurgood Marshall, Carter worked closely with the future U.S. Supreme Court justice.
An associate in their office later likened the charismatic Marshall to being “the wind,” while the more intellectual Carter was “the keel.”
“Carter was a vigorous, careful, devoted attorney fighting for black equality in the courts,” said Richard Kluger, author of “Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality.”
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