Author: specialcollections

New Acquisitions: Judge Cecil M. Deason Collection

DeasonIn Alabama, one seldom has a chance to examine the papers of a state trial court judge. Circuit judges don’t often leave behind collections for posterity—less so, certainly, than their counterparts on the appellate bench. The Bounds Law Library recently received the papers of Judge Cecil M. Deason (1903-1994), who lived in stirring times and found himself in the middle of historic events. The following was written by Research Assistant Ethan Wilkinson (UA Law, 3L; BA, Birmingham Southern College). He also was the primary arranger of the Deason Collection.

The University of Alabama Law Library Special Collections recently acquired the papers of Cecil Deason, a long time Solicitor and Circuit Judge in Jefferson County. The collection, consisting predominantly of newspaper clippings, photographs, judicial materials, and an assortment of other items, covers most of Deason’s adult life, including his service in World War II, his time in the Solicitor’s Office in Jefferson County, and his tenure serving on the bench in Alabama’s 10th Judicial Circuit.Deason Scrapbook

Cecil Deason was born in Bessemer in 1903. He graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1929 and returned to Birmingham to begin a private practice. Two years later he was appointed Solicitor to the Jefferson County Court of Misdemeanors. It was during this time that Deason constructed his first scrapbook, revealing his fascination with both high profile crimes and the judicial system, recording any and all newspaper articles that related to highly publicized crimes, the Alabama court system, or trials that caught the newspapers’ attention. Deason enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1941, serving as a staff intelligence officer in the Pacific and eventually rising to the rank of Commander by the end of World War II. During his time in the service, Deason kept a meticulously detailed photographic record of his wartime experience, in particular chronicling his stay in the Philippines. The snapshots, arranged into a large photo album, paint a vivid portrait of both the brutality of the conflict and the workaday atmosphere of camp life, each juxtaposed against the jungle background of the South Pacific islands.Deason holding Klan robe

After the War, Deason returned to the Solicitor’s office in Birmingham. During this time the future judge made a name for himself as an anti-crime force in the state. In particular, two cases propelled Deason’s name into the headlines and laid the foundation for his future rise to the judiciary: the prosecution of Ku Klux Klan members for attacking and flogging a woman in northern Jefferson County in 1949 and the prosecution of Albert Fuller for the assassination of Democratic Attorney General candidate Albert Patterson in Phenix City in 1954.The Klan case drew a national spotlight to Birmingham, where a rash of cross burnings and attacks had swept the area in the early summer of 1948. One of the victims, Edna McDana of Adamsville, identified one the masked attackers who broke into her home and flogged her. However, despite Deason’s and Chief Solicitor Emmett Perry’s best efforts and McDana’s testimony, Coleman Lollar was acquitted by an all-white jury after just an hour and a half of deliberation. But the trial broke headlines across the country and put both Deason’s and Perry’s names and faces (often holding Klan robes up for the jury to inspect) in papers from New York and Chicago. Deason would later receive hate mail from as far away as New York, some writers attacking him for prosecuting a white man and others accusing him of not doing enough to gain a conviction.Deason discussion

Deason gained further notoriety for the prosecution of Phenix City Deputy Sheriff Albert Fuller for the murder of Albert Patterson. Patterson had just received the Democratic nomination for Attorney General in a hotly contested primary, campaigning on a promise of saving Phenix City, his home town in Russell County, from the clutches of the local (and incredibly corrupt) political machine. Fuller, Circuit Solicitor Arch Ferrell, and outgoing Attorney General Si Garrett were indicted for the murder, though the latter two were ultimately acquitted. The case was moved to Birmingham to shield the proceedings from the corruption of Russell County’s judiciary, and Deason was appointed special prosecutor for the case by Attorney General John Patterson, Albert’s son. Although Fuller was defended by Roderick Beddow, then the most eminent defense attorney in the state, Deason secured a life sentence in a trial that gripped the state’s attention. Within months of the trial’s conclusion, the younger Patterson cleaned out the city’s corruption in a move that would send him to the governor’s mansion in 1959, and Deason cemented his legacy as a hard line prosecutor worthy of serious consideration for judicial office.

Deason Scrapbook Deason was appointed to the specially created 10th Judicial Circuit in 1961 after receiving votes of confidence from both the Alabama State Bar Association and the Alabama Association of Circuit Judges. He served that seat for over a decade, eventually becoming a prominent member of the Circuit Judges’ Association and a vocal leader of the judicial reform movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, vehemently defending the jury system and pressing for increased salaries and resources for Alabama’s courts. When he retired in the mid-1970s, Judge Deason left a legacy reflected in the papers and numerous newspaper clippings he saved. His advocacy of tough justice for criminals and his stands on behalf of judicial reform were each underscored by a deep sense of duty and service to both the state and country.

Book Note: Jack Bass’ Taming the Storm: The Life and Times of Frank M. Johnson, Jr. and the South’s Fight Over Civil Rights

Bass Book Note resizeJudge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., is rightly one of the most celebrated Federal District and U.S. Court of Appeals judges in American history. As a member of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama from 1955-1979, Johnson shaped the legal trajectory of several key Civil Rights Movement cases, including Browder v. Gayle (1956), which challenged the segregation of Montgomery’s bus system in the wake of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Gomillion v. Lightfoot (1961), which challenged the city of Tuskegee’s systemic plan to exclude black voters. In these and numerous other cases, Judge Johnson pioneered judicial methods to address discrimination against African-Americans in education, voting, public transportation, and jury representation. He also ruled in Wyatt v. Stickney (1971), a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case originating in a dispute over Alabama’s Bryce Hospital, which created the basis for minimum standards of care for patients residing in mental health facilities. Judge Johnson was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 1979, and then to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit after the Fifth Circuit split in 1981, where he served until his retirement in 1999.

Recently, Judge Johnson was portrayed in the 2014 film Selma, in which he is played by Martin Sheen. The film briefly dramatizes a few scenes in Judge Johnson’s Montgomery courtroom in which he approved a petition from various civil rights groups including the SCLC and SNCC, to let the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery March go forward.

Jack Bass’ Taming the Storm: The Life and Times of Frank M. Johnson, Jr. and the South’s Fight over Civil Rights traces Judge Johnson’s life from his birthplace in Haleyville, Alabama, through his years as a law student at the University of Alabama, his early law practice, and his monumental achievements as a federal judge. Bass illuminates how Johnson’s approach to legal struggles over African-American civil rights came to be so innovative, particularly in his use of judicial powers to fashion equitable relief for racial discrimination. Bass also explores Johnson’s family history and upbringing in Winston County, Alabama, in order to show how and why Johnson came to defy the white South’s commitment to racial segregation.

Before the Civil War, Winston County’s predominately white population mostly worked on small family farms without slaves. The county’s residents had little interest in going to war to preserve slavery, and their representatives in Montgomery voted against secession. Many from the county, including some of Johnson’s ancestors, served in the Union Army. Partly due to this legacy, Johnson’s father belonged to the Republican Party, which in the early twentieth century was still the “party of Lincoln” to the rest of Alabama and the solidly Democratic South. Johnson’s father held a longtime patronage post as postmaster in Haleyville, and later became a probate judge, one of the few Republicans to hold office in Alabama at the time. Johnson’s political background and early life experiences led him to develop the courage, moral fortitude, and convictions that led to his dedication to upholding the law despite threats of violence and the social and political opposition of his peers.

Bass relies heavily on a wealth of primary material, including several years’ worth of interviews with the judge himself, as well as extensive interviews with Judge Johnson’s wife, Ruth, and many of his friends, colleagues, and law clerks. While this approach provides an excellent depiction of Johnson’s immediate personal and professional life, its focus limits the book to the perspective of privileged white professionals. Considering the direct impact that Johnson’s work had on the South’s African-American communities in their fight for civil rights, including voices beyond those that knew Johnson personally might have broadened the book’s depiction of his legacy and provided a more critical perspective on his work.

Bass’ work should be of use to those interested in learning more about Johnson’s life and his significant influence on legal history in both Alabama and also the United States as a whole. Scholars should also seek out Volume 109 of the Yale Law Journal, which was dedicated to celebrating Johnson’s legacy and published shortly after his death. It includes encomiums from John Lewis, a civil rights leader and longtime member of the U.S. House of Representatives; Judge Myron Thompson, Johnson’s replacement in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama; and Ronald Krotoszynski, professor at the University of Alabama’s School of Law and one of Judge Johnson’s former law clerks. Additionally, the Alabama Law Review recently hosted a symposium on the 50th Anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act, including an address from Jack Bass. A forthcoming issue of the review will print some of the papers given at the symposium.

In Memoriam Brad LeMarr (1974-2015)

We announce with much sadness the death of University of Alabama School of Law graduate and former Special Collections Research Assistant Brad E. LeMarr. Brad died on January 20, 2015, at the age of forty. Possessed of a truly versatile mind, Brad earned advanced degrees in History and Classics in addition to the JD (class of 2008) and MLS that he received from the University of Alabama. He was admitted to the state bars of Alabama and Oklahoma, but his true love was classical history, especially that of the late Roman Republic. Kind and attentive to his colleagues at the Bounds Law Library, Brad applied intellect and intuition to the processing of collections. He also participated with enthusiasm in the production of our seventh Occasional Publication, titled A Goodly Heritage: Judges and Historically Significant Decisions of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, 1804-1955 (2010). Requiescat in pace!

Welcome to Litera Scripta

Welcome to Litera Scripta, the Bounds Law Library Special Collections blog! We hope to share with you our many books, manuscripts, and artifacts. We’re not particular about form or format. At Bounds, we preserve and catalog a diverse collection of documents and objects, all with an eye to the evolution of common law. Our primary focus is on legal history in Alabama; but we’re also interested in law and society in the south and the nation, in the English roots of constitutionalism and the rule of law, and in the history of the civil law.

Thus we’ll be blogging about our collections of early Alabama lawbooks; our Tudor-Stuart treatises, abridgements, and reporters; our first edition Blackstone; our collections of lawyers’ notebooks and Alabama judges’ scrapbooks. That’s just a start! Soon, for instance, we’ll unveil an assemblage of books and ephemera associated with the Knights Templar. And much, much more. Most of our holdings are by definition hard-to-find. Some are large and impressive, such as Justice Hugo L. Black’s reconstructed study; others are small and unique, such as Justice Black’s ouija board. We’ll speak for all of them—with the possible exception of the ouija board, which has been known to speak for itself.

A word about our title, translated freely as “the written word.” These words are plucked from a Latin proverb sometimes quoted by lawyers: “Vox emissa volat; litera scripta manet.” Or, “Spoken words fly away; the written letter remains.” As to the printed letter, the decorative initial letter in our title was borrowed from Renaissance printer Richard Tottel’s 1562 work, Regis Edwardi Tertii a primo ad decimum….

Finally, our editors Paul M. Pruitt, Jr. and David I. Durham would like to introduce themselves and their colleague and fellow contributor Ellie Campbell.

Paul M. Pruitt, Jr. is Special Collections Librarian at the Bounds Law Library—a position he has occupied since the crust of the earth began to cool— and Adjunct Instructor at the UA School of Law. He is co-editor, with David I. Durham, of the Occasional Publications of the Bounds Law Library. The latest in this series (Number 8) is titled Traveling the Beaten Trail: Charles Tait’s Charges to Federal Grand Juries, 1822-1825 (2013). Pruitt has authored a number of journal articles; in addition he is author of the book Taming Alabama: Lawyers and Reformers, 1804-1929 (UA Press, 2010).

David I. Durham is the Curator of Archival Collections at the Bounds Law Library and teaches in the university’s Department of History. In addition to serving as co-editor of the Occasional Publication series with Paul Pruitt, Durham’s research interests include legislative, legal, and diplomatic topics in the United States and Latin America. His book, A Southern Moderate in Radical Times: Henry Washington Hilliard, 1808-1892, explores the role of a political and social moderate in a polarized society and was published by LSU Press in 2008 as part of their Southern Biography Series.

Ellie Campbell is the Archival Assistant at the Bounds Law Library and is a recent graduate of both the University of Alabama’s School of Law and School of Library and Information Studies. Additionally, she holds a Master’s degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi and a Master’s in American Studies from King’s College London. She is the author of “Breakthrough Verdict: Strange v. State,” a chapter in the forthcoming book New Corn, New Fields: Essays in Alabama Legal History. She will occasionally contribute book notes on key texts addressing Southern and Alabama legal history.

New Acquisitions: Letter from Justice Hugo Black

We have recently acquired a 1953 letter from Justice Hugo L. Black to his good friends Marilew and Herman Kogan of Chicago. In it Black congratulates the Kogans upon the birth of their son Mark. Apparently he is responding to Marilew’s announcement: “We just produced another Democrat.” For information on the rich cultural and journalistic careers of Herman (1914-1989) and Marilew (1919-2007), see their obituaries in the Chicago Tribune, March 9, 1989, and June 22, 2007. For another glimpse of Black’s friendship with the Kogans, see Roger K. Newman, Hugo Black: A Biography (New York: Pantheon Books, 1994), 100. Below is a transcript of the letter, followed by digital images of the same.

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Feb. 10-53-

Dear Marilew & Herman:

That’s just grand about Mark! Maybe by the time he reaches voting age his party will be in power, although things look a little dark now.

Wish I could see all of you, but during these winter months I like warm climates. In fact, I am leaving in a few minutes for three weeks in Florida. Court recessed yesterday until March 9th.

 My hope for you two is that you enjoy your children as much as I have enjoyed & now enjoy mine. They have convinced me all over again that the family is a grand institution.

 Why do you not have a baby sitter sometime & visit Wash[in]gton? Looks like if you wait too long you might have to get an army of sitters—and that too would be OK.

 Love to both of you and the young Kogans,

                                                                        Sincerely, Hugo Black

P.S. If you would give me your address sometime I would not have to rely on delivery at your place of business [the Chicago Sun Times]. 

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Black-Kogan letter combined pagesBlack-Kogan envelope

“A Little Renaissance of Our Own:” Tudor-Stuart Law Books

La Graunde Abridgement, Sir Robert Brooke
La Graunde Abridgement, Sir Robert Brooke, 1573

The following text and images are taken from an exhibit titled, “A Little Renaissance of Our Own.” That exhibit was first shown several years ago, and was remounted in our Special Collections reading room in October 2014. Our efforts to acquire materials from this era are ongoing, as this exhibit shows, but it also reflects works added decades ago, thanks to the initiative of the late Professor John C. Payne, for whom our reading room is named.

The Tudor-Stuart Era was a time of upheavals and transformations. Henry VII seized power (1485) as a feudal monarch, ruling over a manorial economy. Spiritually, most Englishmen lived within the framework of medieval Catholicism. Two centuries later, the overthrow of James II (1688) saw England governed by a constitutional monarchy with far-flung commercial and colonial empires. Intellectually, the English had been influenced both by Renaissance humanism and the turbulent reformism of the Protestant Reformation. The latter contributed to the rise of Parliament as a counterweight to the absolutist Stuart Kings James I (1603-1625) and Charles I (1625-1649).

La Graunde Abridgement, Anthony Fitzherbert
La Graunde Abridgement, Anthony Fitzherbert, 1577

 

 

English law had changed too; but as law is a conservative discipline, it should not be surprising that law writers sought to reconcile medieval common law (obsessed with title to land) to a new world of trading ventures. The task was to digest and restate, beginning with Thomas Littleton’s Tenures (1481 or 1482), continuing through variants of La Graunde Abridgement (from 1516), and culminating in the works of Edward Coke, notably his thirteen volumes of reports (from 1600) and his four-volume Institutes (1628-1644). F.W. Maitland said of Coke’s ex post facto medievalism that “We were having a little Renaissance of our own, or a Gothic revival if you please.”

 

 

Reliquiae Sacrae Carolinae
Reliquiae Sacrae Carolinae, 1650

This exhibition includes three grand abridgements (1573, 1577, 1675) and several editions of reports, including Coke’s Size Part (1607), Thomas Ireland’s abridgement of Coke’s Reports (1651) and Henry Yelverton’s Reports (1661). Likewise, there are practice aids such as the wonderfully titled Simboleography (1603), a study of “Instruments and Presidents.” Finally, on display are historical works (a 1640 Bracton, a 1673 Glanville) and one polemic—the 1650 Reliquiae Sacrae Carolinae, published a year after Charles I’s execution at the hands of Parliament, and devoted to “that Great Monarch and Glorious Martyr.”

 

La Size Part Des Reports, Edward Coke
La Size Part Des Reports, Edward Coke, 1607

Printing styles range from the glorious Renaissance presentations of Richard Tottel to the balanced lines of Restoration craftsmen whose fonts anticipated those of the Enlightenment. The volumes range in size from folios to duodecimo pocket books. The Charles I reliquary is one of the latter—published at the Hague and no doubt carried as discreetly as possible by its readers in England.

 

 

 

 

Book Note: Dan T. Carter’s Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South

Carter_SCOTSBOROcovsktch.inddIn addition to exploring new acquisitions, exhibits, and collections in the Bounds Law Library’s Special Collections, we will occasionally post short book notes on works relevant to Alabama and Southern legal history. We hope to explore both classic and more recent works, from a variety of disciplines and methodologies, with an eye towards illuminating the depth and breadth of the field.

Originally published in 1969, Dan T. Carter’s Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South was the first book-length account of the now infamous story of the Scottsboro Boys. In March of 1931, nine young African-American men, ranging in age from thirteen to twenty years old, were falsely accused of raping two white women on a train traveling from Chattanooga to Memphis. Local law enforcement searched the train near the town of Paint Rock, Alabama, and the trials took place in the nearby city of Scottsboro. The case attracted a great deal of media attention due to the youth of the defendants, the speed of the trials, the all-white jury, and the woefully inadequate nature of defense counsel. With the legal and economic assistance of both the American Communist Party and the NAACP, the cases were ultimately retried three times, resulting in prison sentences for five of the nine. The Scottsboro cases came to symbolize the gross miscarriage of justice that awaited African-Americans in the Jim Crow South. Carter’s book explores the numerous trials, appeals, retrials, lynch mobs, copious media attention, involvement of various political organizations, and eventual U.S. Supreme Court cases that resulted from those events.

The 2007 revised edition of Carter’s classic work adds both a new introduction and a new final chapter, in which Carter explores further repercussions of the Scottsboro Boys cases. Though several of Carter’s sources claimed that the two white women, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, died in the early 1960s, they were in fact both still alive when the book was first published. After a subsequent documentary on the Scottsboro Boys was aired on NBC in 1976, the two women sued the television network for libel. Dr. Carter was called as a witness in the case, which was eventually dismissed. His last chapter recounts his experiences with that trial, as well as his final reflections on the story of the Scottsboro Boys.

Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South should be of particular interest to legal scholars not only for its excellent and detailed account of the many trials, legal and otherwise, endured by the nine young men, but also for its examination of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Powell v. Alabama, that laid the groundwork for Gideon v. Wainwright and the court’s determination that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to counsel.

Ellie Campbell

 

New Acquisitions: Blackstone’s Commentaries

Blackstone bookplate border
Commentaries Bookplate

 

 

William Blackstone’s name is iconic in the common law world. The Bounds Law Library is pleased to add a first-edition set of Blackstone’s Commentaries (printed at the Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1765-1769) to its collection of common law works, which include several later editions of the Commentaries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackstone book 1

Blackstone book 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackstone book 3

Blackstone book 4