William H. Hastie

Last updated
William Hastie
Judge William H. Hastie, dean of the Howard University Law School, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of War, ca. 1941 - NARA - 535835.tif
Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
In office
May 31, 1971 April 14, 1976
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
In office
October 21, 1949 May 31, 1971
Appointed by Harry S. Truman
Preceded bySeat established
Succeeded by James Rosen
Governor of the United States Virgin Islands
In office
May 17, 1946 October 21, 1949
Preceded by Charles Harwood
Succeeded by Morris Fidanque de Castro
Judge of the United States District Court of the Virgin Islands
In office
March 26, 1937 July 1, 1939
Appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by George Jones
Succeeded by Herman Moore
Personal details
Born
William Henry Hastie Jr.

(1904-11-17)November 17, 1904
Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedApril 14, 1976(1976-04-14) (aged 71)
East Norriton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Relations Charles Hamilton Houston (cousin)
Education Amherst College (BA)
Harvard University (LLB, SJD)

William Henry Hastie Jr. (November 17, 1904 – April 14, 1976) was an American lawyer, judge, educator, public official, and civil rights advocate. He was the first African American to serve as Governor of the United States Virgin Islands, as a federal judge, [1] and as a federal appellate judge. [2] He served as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and previously served as District Judge of the District Court of the Virgin Islands.

Contents

Early life and education

Hastie was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of William Henry Hastie, Sr. and Roberta Childs. [3] His maternal ancestors were African American and Native American, but European American is also a strong possible mix. Family tradition held that one female ancestor was a Malagasy princess. [4] He graduated from Dunbar High School, a top academic school for black students. Hastie attended Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he graduated first in his class, magna cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa, receiving an Artium Baccalaureus degree. [5] He received a Bachelor of Laws from Harvard Law School in 1930, followed by a Doctor of Juridical Science from the same institution in 1933. [6]

Career

Hastie entered the private practice of law in Washington, D.C. from 1930 to 1933. [6] From 1933 to 1937 he served as assistant solicitor for the United States Department of the Interior, [6] advising the agency on racial issues.[ citation needed ] He had worked with his second cousin, Charles Hamilton Houston, to establish a joint law practice. [7] [8]

In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Hastie to the District Court of the Virgin Islands, [9] making Hastie the first African-American federal judge. [5] This was a controversial action; Democratic United States Senator William H. King of Utah, the Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary called Hastie's appointment a "blunder."[ citation needed ]

In 1939, Hastie resigned from the court to become the Dean of the Howard University School of Law, where he had previously taught. [2] During his tenure as a legal professor at Howard University, Hastie had become a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. [10] One of his students was Thurgood Marshall, who led the Legal Defense Fund for the NAACP and was appointed as a United States Supreme Court Justice.[ citation needed ]

Hastie served as a co-lead lawyer with Thurgood Marshall in the voting rights case of Smith v. Allwright , 321 U.S. 649 (1944), in which the Supreme Court ruled against white primaries.[ citation needed ] One of Houston's sons became a name partner at their law firm.[ citation needed ]

Poster from Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. News Bureau, 1943 HON. WILLIAM H. HASTIE - CHAMPION OF JUSTICE - NARA - 535685.jpg
Poster from Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. News Bureau, 1943

World War II

During World War II, Hastie worked as a civilian aide to the United States Secretary of War Henry Stimson from 1940 to 1942. [6] He vigorously advocated the equal treatment of African Americans in the United States Army and their unrestricted use in the war effort. [11]

On January 15, 1943, Hastie resigned his position in protest against racially segregated training facilities in the United States Army Air Forces, inadequate training for African-American pilots, and the unequal distribution of assignments between whites and non-whites. [11] That same year, he received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP, both for his lifetime achievements and in recognition of this protest action. [12]

In 1946, President Harry S. Truman appointed Hastie as Territorial Governor of the United States Virgin Islands. [6] He was the first African American to hold this position. Hastie served as governor from 1946 to 1949. [6]

Federal judicial service

Hastie received a recess appointment from President Harry S. Truman on October 21, 1949, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, to a new seat authorized by 63 Stat. 493, becoming the first African-American federal appellate judge. He was nominated to the same position by President Truman on January 5, 1950. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 19, 1950, and received his commission on July 22, 1950. He served as Chief officer as a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 1968 to 1971. He assumed senior status on May 31, 1971. He was a Judge of the Temporary Emergency Court of Appeals from 1972 to 1976. His service terminated on April 14, 1976, due to his death in Philadelphia, while playing golf. [6] [13]

Supreme Court consideration

As the first African American on the Federal bench, Hastie was considered as a possible candidate to be the first African-American Justice of the Supreme Court. In an interview with Robert Penn Warren for the book Who Speaks for the Negro? , Hastie commented that, as a judge, he had not been able to be "out in the hustings, and to personally sample grassroots reaction", but that, in order for the civil rights movement to succeed, class and race must both be considered. [14]

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy considered appointing Hastie to succeed retiring Justice Charles Whittaker.[ citation needed ] But due to political calculations he did not.[ citation needed ] He believed that an African-American appointee would have faced fierce opposition in the United States Senate from Southerners such as James Eastland (D-Mississippi), chairman of the Judiciary Committee.[ citation needed ] Conversely, on issues other than civil rights, Hastie was considered relatively moderate, and Chief Justice Earl Warren reportedly opined that Hastie would be too conservative as a justice.[ citation needed ] Kennedy appointed Byron White instead.[ citation needed ]

Kennedy said that he expected to make several more appointments to the Supreme Court in his presidency and he intended to appoint Hastie to the Court at a later date. [15]

Legacy

The Third Circuit Library in Philadelphia is named in Hastie's honor. [16] A permanent memorial room in his honor is hosted by The Beck Cultural Exchange Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, which also houses his personal papers. [17] In addition, an urban natural area in South Knoxville is named in his honor. [18]

In terms of African-American history, Hastie developed from a youthful radical to a scholarly, calm, almost aloof jurist. He said the judge always ought to be in the middle, for his basic responsibility "is to maintain neutrality while giving the best objective judgment of the contest between adversaries." As a scion of an elite black family, he reflected its integrationist viewpoint. He said, "The Negro lawyer has played and continues to play, a very important role in the American Negro's struggle for equality." [19] A temptation to activism lurked just below his calm surface, as when he demonstrated against Jim Crow before it was fashionable to do that. When he resigned as the top aide on racial matters to the War Department in 1943, he said it was caused by "reactionary policies and discriminatory practices in the Army and Air Forces." [20]

See also

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References

  1. "History of the Federal Judiciary: First African American Judges", Federal Judicial Center
  2. 1 2 Hastie, William H. (1972-01-05). "Truman Library – Judge William H. Hastie Oral History Interview" (Transcript). Interviewed by Jerry N. Hess. Retrieved 2013-03-01.
  3. Vile, John R. (2001). Great American lawyers: an encyclopedia. 1. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO. ISBN   1576072029.
  4. Childs, John Brown (2000). "Red Clay, Blue Hills: In Honor of My Ancestors". In Maurianne Adams; Rosie Castaneda; Madeline L. Peters; Ximena Zuniga; Warren J. Blumenfeld (eds.). Social Justice : An Anthology on Racism, Sexism, Anti-Semitism, Heterosexism, Classism, and Ableism (1 ed.). New York ; London: Routledge. pp.  110–113. ISBN   0415926335.
  5. 1 2 Wynn, Linda T.; Bobby L. Lovett (1995-12-15). "William Henry Hastie (1904–1976)". In Linda T. Wynn; Gayle Brinkley-Johnson (eds.). A Profile of African Americans in Tennessee History. Annual Local Conference on Afro-American Culture and History. Nashville, USA: Tennessee State University Library. Retrieved 2013-03-01.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Hastie, William Henry – Federal Judicial Center". www.fjc.gov.
  7. "William Henry Hastie". law.jrank.org. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  8. "William H. Hastie 1904–1976". Encyclopedia.com. May 1, 2020. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  9. "[USC04] 18 USC 23: Court of the United States defined". uscode.house.gov.
  10. "Official Website of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc". 2008-02-02. Archived from the original on 2008-02-02. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  11. 1 2 James, Rawn (2013-01-22). The Double V: How Wars, Protest, and Harry Truman Desegregated America's Military (1 ed.). New York: Bloomsbury Press. ISBN   9781608196081.
  12. "Spingarn Medal". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  13. "Judge Hastie, First Black Federal Jurist, Dead at 71". Jet. 50 (6). Johnson Publishing Company. 1976-04-29. p. 6.
  14. Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities. "William Hastie, Jr". Robert Penn Warren's Who Speaks for the Negro? Archive. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  15. Schlesinger, Arthur Meier (2002). A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (1st Mariner Books ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN   9780618219278.
  16. See Circuit Libraries
  17. See
  18. See William Hastie Natural Area
  19. Bruce M. Stave, "Hastie. William Henry" in John A. Garraty, ed., Encyclopedia of American Biography (1974) p 498.
  20. Stave, 1974.

Sources

Legal offices
Preceded by
George Jones
Judge of the United States District Court of the Virgin Islands
1937–1939
Succeeded by
Herman Moore
New seatJudge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
1949–1971
Succeeded by
James Rosen
Preceded by
Austin Leander Staley
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
1968–1971
Succeeded by
Collins J. Seitz
Political offices
Preceded by
Charles Harwood
Governor of the United States Virgin Islands
1946–1949
Succeeded by
Morris Fidanque de Castro