Jack Greenberg circa 1952
December 22, 1924|
Brooklyn, New York
|Died||October 12, 2016
Manhattan, New York
|Known for||Directing the NAACP Legal Defense Fund for 23 years|
|Awards||Presidential Citizens Medal|
Jack Greenberg (December 22, 1924 – October 12, 2016) was an American attorney and legal scholar. 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.
He was Alphonse Fletcher Jr. Professor of Law Emeritus at Columbia Law School, and had previously served as dean of Columbia College and vice dean of Columbia Law School. He died on October 12, 2016.
During World War II, Greenberg served in the United States Navy and fought at Okinawa and Iwo Jima. Greenberg 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 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 an interruption due to his war service Greenberg graduated from Columbia College with a B.A. in 1945. He further received an LL.B. from Columbia Law School in 1948, and an LL.D. from Columbia Law in 1984.
Greenberg recalled his earliest arguments before the Supreme Court, saying:
"It was like a religious experience; the first few times I was there I was full of awe. I had an almost tactile feeling. The first time I was in the Court, I wasn't arguing. I felt as if I were in a synagogue, and reached to see whether or not I had a yarmulke on. I thought I ought to have one on."
In perhaps his greatest stride, Greenberg argued Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 before the Supreme Court as co-counsel with Thurgood Marshall. Brown declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. In Brown, Greenberg found social scientists and other authorities from the fields of psychology and sociology who addressed the detrimental effects forced segregation could have on young public school students.
In 1962, Greenberg argued Meredith v. Fair, a case which became a first step in integrating the University of Mississippi by allowing the enrollment of student James Meredith.
Other civil rights cases Greenberg argued include Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education in 1969, which ordered the end of segregated school systems "at once", and Griggs v. Duke Power Company in 1971, which outlawed basing employment and promotion decisions on the results of tests with a discriminatory impact. 
In 1972, he argued Furman v. Georgia (1972), in which the Court held that the death penalty as it was then applied was a violation of the "cruel and unusual punishment" clause of the Eighth Amendment.
Greenberg was a founding member of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and of Human Rights Watch.
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 to become a professor and Vice Dean at Columbia Law School. He served as Dean of Columbia College from 1989 to 1993. Greenberg's teaching interests include constitutional law, civil rights, and human rights law, civil procedure, "Kafka and the Law", and South Africa's post-apartheid constitution. As of fall 2013, Greenberg still taught at Columbia Law School, and served as a senior director of LDF.
He was also a distinguished visiting professor at University of Tokyo Faculty of Law in 1993-94 and at St. Louis University Law School in 1994, and a visiting professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in 1994 and 1996, 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 at Hebrew University in 2005.
Greenberg had varied intellectual interests: aside from several books on law and civil rights, including Crusaders in the Courts, he has written a cookbook (Dean Cuisine, with Harvard Law School Dean James Vorenberg), and appeared as a panelist for a New York Times tasting of Oregon pinot noir. He also edited Franz Kafka: The Office Writings (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008) with two other scholars.
|Dean of Columbia College
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