Robinson, Spottswood William, III

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Robinson, Spottswood William, III

Spottswood William Robinson III was a retired federal appeals court judge, who, before his appointment, was a law professor and an attorney who was actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Robinson worked with Thurgood Marshall and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund during the 1940s and 1950s to desegregate schools. Robinson was born on July 26, 1916, in Richmond, Virginia. He attended Virginia Union University and received his LL.B. degree from Howard University School of Law in 1939. He joined the Howard Law School faculty immediately after graduation and served as a professor of law until 1948. Robinson was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1943.

During his years at Howard, Robinson worked with the dean of the law school, Charles Hamilton Houston, and other professors and Howard Law School graduates, in a concerted effort to end racial Segregation in public schools. As counsel to the Virginia branch of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund from 1948 to 1950, Robinson pursued legal action against Virginia's segregated education system. He continued this legal attack on the separate-but-equal doctrine as the NAACP Southeast Regional counsel in 1951, a position he retained until 1960. The NAACP's litigation ultimately led to the momentous decision of brown v. board of education 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954), which struck down the separate-but-equal doctrine and struck down state-mandated segregation of public schools.

Robinson established a private law practice in 1955 but returned to Howard Law School in 1960 to become its dean. During this period, he also served as a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In 1963, Robinson became vice president and general counsel of Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, where he served until he was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 1964.

In November 1966, President lyndon johnson appointed Robinson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was the first African-American to be appointed to that court. Robinson served as chief judge of the court from May 1981 to July 1986. He took senior status on September 1, 1989, and retired in 1992. Robinson died in Richmond, Virginia, on October 18, 2001.

Further readings

"Biographies: The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit." 1996. George Washington Law Review 64.

Kluger, Richard. 1976. Simple Justice. New York: Random House.

Motley, Constance Baker. 1999. Equal Justice Under Law: An Autobiography. New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux.

Schwartz, Bernard. 1986. Swann's Way: The School Busing Case and the Supreme Court. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

Cross-references

School Desegregation.