ABOUT THE CONFERENCE
There are certain people in the world who leave an indelible
mark upon the hearts and minds of a nation. The Honorable A. Leon
Higginbotham, Jr. was one of those people.
Leon Higginbotham was born Feb. 25, 1928, in Trenton, N.J. He
received a bachelor's degree from Antioch College and a law degree
at Yale Law School in 1952, and eventually became that school's
first black trustee.
John F. Kennedy appointed him to the Federal Trade Commission
in 1962, making him the first black person on the panel. In 1968,
President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the commission that
investigated the urban riots of the Sixties. The resulting Kerner
Report blamed the violence on a growing polarization between blacks
was first appointed to the federal bench in 1961. In 1977, President
Jimmy Carter elevated him to the 3rd Circuit, which handles cases
from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the Virgin Islands.
When he retired in 1993, Higginbotham was Chief Judge of the 3rd
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, one of 13 federal
appeals courts that are second in rank only to the U.S. Supreme
retiring from the bench, Higginbotham became a public service
professor of jurisprudence at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School
with his judicial achievements, Higginbotham is acclaimed for
his multi-volume study "Race and the American Legal Process."
In those books, he examined how colonial law was linked to slavery
and racism, and analyzed how the post-slavery legal system continued
to perpetuate oppression of blacks.
1994, South Africa President Nelson Mandela asked Higginbotham
to serve as a mediator during that country's first elections in
which blacks could vote.