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Fri, 09.07.1900

James Nabrit Jr., Attorney born

James Nabrit Jr.

*On this date in 1900, James Nabrit Jr. was born. He was a Black civil rights attorney and university administrator.  

James Madison Nabrit Jr. was born in Georgia, the son of James Nabrit, a Baptist minister and baker, and Gertrude Augusta West. His father became President of the American Baptist Institute in Nashville and Secretary of the National Baptist Convention. Himself a learned college graduate who taught some of his children Latin, Greek, and physics; James M. Nabrit Sr. was the father of eight college graduates and seven who earned advanced degrees.

Nabrit Jr. graduated from Morehouse College in 1923 and Northwestern University Law School in 1927.  He married Norma Walton in 1924, who taught at colleges in Louisiana and Arkansas from 1927 to 1930. From 1930 to 1936, he practiced law in Houston, Texas. Nabrit began teaching law at Howard University in 1936 and served as dean of the law school from 1958 to 1960 and university president from 1960 to 1969.  In 1938 he started the first formal civil rights law course in the United States.  

Beginning in the 1940s and through the 1950s, Nabrit handled several civil rights cases for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, working with prominent attorneys such as Thurgood Marshall, later a Supreme Court justice. Notably, Nabrit argued Bolling v. Sharpe, a companion case of Brown v. Board of Education.  From 1965 to 1967, he served as Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson; the first black to hold this position.  

He returned to the presidency of Howard from 1968 to 1969, stepping down under pressure from the American Association of University Professors after he expelled 18 disruptive students. Nabrit said he had simply been waiting for the university to choose a successor.  His brother, Samuel M. Nabrit, was appointed to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.  James Nabrit Jr. died in Washington, D.C., on December 27, 1997, at 97. He was survived by his only son, James Nabrit III.  

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