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Mon, 12.22.1924

Jack Greenberg, Lawyer born

Jack Greenberg

*Jack Greenberg was born on this date in 1924.  He was a white Jewish-American attorney and legal scholar. Jack Greenberg was born into a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. 

Greenberg served in the United States Navy during World War II and fought at Okinawa and Iwo Jima. He commanded a landing craft in the invasion of Iheya Shima, one of the final campaigns of the war.  During his service, he was disturbed by the racial prejudice he perceived in the Navy and was threatened with a court-martial for shouting at a superior officer in defense of a Black crewman that he felt was being mistreated.  

After the war, Greenberg graduated from Columbia College with a B.A. in 1945. He further received an LL.B. from Columbia Law School in 1948.  He was the Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 1961 to 1984, succeeding Thurgood Marshall.  He was involved in numerous crucial cases, including Brown v. Board of Education, which ended segregation in public schools.  In all, he argued 40 civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and won almost all of them.

Greenberg was an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School from 1970–84, a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School in 1971, and a visiting professor at the College of the City of New York in 1977.  In 1982, he was appointed to co-teach Julius L. Chambers' class on race law at Harvard Law School. The university declined to replace Greenberg with a Black professor, so Black students boycotted the class. When asked if he was frightened to pass through a group of protesters on his way to class the first day, Greenberg said, "No, I was on the beach at Iwo Jima."  

Greenberg left LDF in 1984 and received his LL.D. from Columbia Law in 1984, where he became a professor and Vice-Dean. He served as Dean of Columbia College from 1989 to 1993 and was Alphonse Fletcher Jr.'s Professor of Law Emeritus. His teaching interests included constitutional law, civil rights and human rights law, civil procedure, "Kafka and the Law," and South Africa's post-apartheid constitution.  He was also a distinguished visiting professor at the University of Tokyo Faculty of Law in 1993-94 and St. Louis University Law School in 1994, and a visiting professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in 1994 and 1996.

He was at Princeton University in 1995, at the University of Munich in 1998, at Tokyo University in 1996 and 1998, at the University of Nuremberg-Erlangen in 1999-2000, and Hebrew University in 2005.  Greenberg had varied intellectual interests: aside from several books on law and civil rights, including Crusaders in the Courts, he wrote a cookbook, Dean Cuisine, and appeared as a panelist for a New York Times tasting of Oregon pinot noir. He edited Franz Kafka: The Office Writings (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008) with two other scholars.  As of fall 2013, Greenberg still taught at Columbia Law School and served as a senior director of LDF.  Jack Greenberg died on October 12, 2016.  

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