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Teacher, Student, Ticket: John Frank, Leon Higginbotham and One Afternoon at the Supreme Court - Not a Trifling Thing


John Q. Barrett


St. John's University School of Law; Robert H. Jackson Center


Yale Law & Policy Review, Vol. 20

Abstract:     
In the fall of 1949, John P. Frank was a leading American constitutional law scholar and a new associate professor at Yale Law School. He also was a co-author of the amicus brief that the "Committee of Law Teachers Against Segregation in Legal Education" filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of petitioner in Sweatt v. Painter, which challenged Texas's Jim Crow system of racially-segregated legal education.

When the Sweatt case was set for oral argument in April 1950, Professor Frank took his first-year student, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., with him to the Supreme Court to witness the event. For Leon Higginbotham (himself an impoverished black law student), this chance to witness Thurgood Marshall's attack on Plessy v. Ferguson in the context of defending a black law student's right to equal protection in legal education became a galvanizing, life-defining event.

This paper, which is based on a presentation at Yale Law School's February 2002 conference on the life and legacy of Judge Higginbotham (1928-1998), reconstructs these events of 1949-1950 and describes the enormous impact of John Frank's small effort to give Leon Higginbotham a special opportunity.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 18

Keywords: Frank, Higginbotham, Marshall, Plessy, Sweatt, Supreme Court, Equal Protection, Segregation

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Date posted: April 19, 2002  

Suggested Citation

Barrett, John Q., Teacher, Student, Ticket: John Frank, Leon Higginbotham and One Afternoon at the Supreme Court - Not a Trifling Thing. Yale Law & Policy Review, Vol. 20. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=305899 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.305899

Contact Information

John Q. Barrett (Contact Author)
St. John's University School of Law ( email )
8000 Utopia Parkway
Queens, NY 11439
United States
718-990-6644 (Phone)
718-990-2199 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.stjohns.edu/academics/graduate/law/faculty/Profiles/Barrett
Robert H. Jackson Center
305 East Fourth Street
Jamestown, NY 14701
United States
716-483-6646 (Phone)
716-483-0690 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.roberthjackson.org
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