The winner of the 2019 Harper Lee Prize for legal fiction is Sharon Bala’s The Boat People. Bala is an author living in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. She is the ninth author to win the prize authorized by the late Harper Lee for a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the power of lawyers to effect change in society.
The prize was first awarded nine years ago to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Lee’s world-famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird. It is a joint award of the University of Alabama School of Law and the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal. This year’s winner was chosen by a distinguished panel of writers and scholars, including Robert Barnes, U.S. Supreme Court correspondent at the Washington Post; Steven Hobbs, Tom Bevill Chairholder of Law, UA’s School of Law; Claire Hamner Matturro, author and alumna, UA’s School of Law; Utz McKnight, chair of the department of gender and race studies and professor of political science, UA; and Gin Phillips, author, “Fierce Kingdom.”
The selection committee praised The Boat People for answering Lee’s charge to recognize legal fiction that shows lawyers making positive changes in society. The Boat People follows the story of a group of Sri Lankan refugees who escape a bloody civil war only to arrive on Vancouver Island’s shores to face the threat of deportation and accusations of terrorism. “The Boat People touched me, haunted me, and educated me—in much the same way To Kill a Mockingbird did when I first read it as an impressionable child,” said Claire Hamner Matturro, University of Alabama School of Law graduate and author. “It’s the kind of book I wish the whole world could read with an open mind and an open heart.”
“The Boat People is timely and powerful. Even those who think they are versed in the various vantage points involved in the complex area of immigration will gain a deeper appreciation of the nuances by reading Sharon Bala’s first novel,” said Molly McDonough, editor and publisher of the ABA Journal. “The book explores the perspectives of desperate refugees; the attorneys who–voluntarily or not–are trying to help them; and the adjudicators who are asked to make potentially life-or-death decisions with little to no evidence.”
Bala responded: “It’s an absolute honor to learn that The Boat People has won the 2019 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. Writing this novel was a meditation on empathy. My greatest hope is that it has the same effect on readers.”
The 2019 prize was awarded on August 29 at the Library of Congress in conjunction with the National Book Festival.
“Welcome to the party, we’re all just papers in the wind.” From “Run, Run, Run,” by Jo Jo Gunne, 1972. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lS7pOaEEOTs]
Several decades into the digital revolution, it is clear that digital devices have had an enormous impact upon the routines of literacy. This effect is every bit as profound as that brought about by the print revolution of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Moreover, the digital universe is arguably much broader than the universe of moveable type. After all, the latter, in simplistic terms, was only a superior way to deal with a medium—parchment/paper—that had been around for millennia. In both cases, the “revolution” involved enhancements in the production, dissemination, and storage of information. But power over information has always meant power plain and simple for the persons in charge of society.
With that in mind, let us consider that persons of rank have had, for more than a millennium, access to documents attesting to their property, status, or worth. Consider the Anglo Saxon concept of “bookland,” which involved royal land grants by means of charters or diplomas, deposited for safety among the records of a monastery or abbey. Moving forward to the early modern world, well-connected travelers regularly carried with them letters of introduction—the ancestors of the recommendations (paper or electronic) eagerly sought by today’s applicants for jobs or college admissions. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the need for documentary endorsement had touched the lives of people who were in no sense exalted. For example, a slave in the American south was required to carry a pass signed by his master in order to set foot beyond the master’s property. Ironically, in the last stringent days of the Confederacy, southern white folks had to carry a stamped pass in order to take railroad journeys; such was the effect of wartime bureaucracy.
Soon after the turn of the last century, several forces came together in the United States—industrialization, immigration and population growth, urban planning and ever more far reaching bureaucracies—to produce a society whose members were defined, increasingly, by their paper documents. A standardized system of birth certificates was in place in the United States by about 1900. By the time children born in that year were well-grown, they needed documentation, identity cards, or printed licenses to live their lives. These pieces of paper determined how an individual could function as a citizen. It was necessary, for example, to present a voter registration certificate at the polls. Likewise, most states required persons wishing to live in legally married bliss to secure a marriage license. Speaking of ubiquitous documents, operators of motor vehicles were commonly required to carry driver’s licenses while operating cars or trucks. Paper money had been common in this country since the time of the American Revolution, but by the early twentieth century, the “personal check” had become the most convenient means of paying ordinary debts.
As this generation approached the age of high school they confronted a world at war. Some of the young men were drafted into America’s World War I armed forces—a path that carried with it an imposing battery of records and identity cards. The young men and women who went to college received student ID cards; those who completed college earned diplomas and membership cards from alumni associations. Graduates who wished to practice law or medicine displayed their diplomas on office walls next to licenses issued by professional organizations or state certifying boards.
Just as these “pieces of paper” confirmed what we were qualified to do, they also governed where we were allowed to go. Travel on such forms of commercial transportation as ships, railroads, airplanes and buses was available only to those who held printed tickets. To anyone who has ridden a passenger train, Cary Grant’s ability (in North by Northwest) to travel without a ticket from New York to Chicago is one of his more impressive achievements. Attendance at many important events (weddings, graduations, recitals) required a printed invitation. The right to attend an even larger number of events—movies, plays, concerts, operas, sporting competitions, conventions—required tickets for which one had to pay.
The editors welcome this post from our colleague, Dr. Julie Seraphina Griffith, that offers a glimpse into the home study of United States Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black through descriptions of its furnishings and numerous books.
The Hugo Black Study at the Bounds Law Library
The Hugo L. Black Collection consists of over one thousand books, personal correspondence, tapes and transcripts of interviews, descriptions of court decisions, office materials, biographical and bibliographical information, photographs, student papers, lecture notes, and personal memorabilia. The collection is stored in several different locations throughout the Bounds Law Library. Hugo Lafayette Black (1886-1971) was born in Clay County, Alabama, and is one of the most distinguished graduates of the University of Alabama’s law school. He served two terms as a United States Senator from 1926-1937, and was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1937 until 1971. Black died shortly after his retirement.
The Hugo L. Black Collection books are located in the Hugo Black Study, which was dedicated 40 years ago during ceremonies that celebrated the relocation of the School of Law in 1978 to a new building.
Renovations made in 2015 include lighting that makes the room and its contents much more visible. Photographic portraits of the Supreme Court can be seen adorning the tops of two walls. Black’s tennis racket is propped against the fireplace and his golf clubs are on the left. Items on Black’s desk include an exquisite black ocean globe, an Art Deco inspired design in which the color black represents the water rather than traditional blue. A smaller globe with blue oceans sits atop a typist’s desk placed by a wall of bookshelves. The Hugo Black Study is centrally located on the main floor of the library, adjacent to the Circulation and Reference Desks. Visitors are able to view the entirety of the study through a partial door that provides a full view of the room and its contents. The study is a replica of Black’s home study in Alexandria, Virginia. It was designed and built to accommodate all the original contents—everything is just as it was when Black was working there on a daily basis.
While the furnishings from Black’s home study in Alexandria, Virginia, were shipped to the library in 1973, most of his favorite books did not arrive until 1983. The study contains over one thousand books, including primary and secondary legal materials, a large collection of historical writings, and other genres. There are, of course, numerous works on law-related topics as well as many other books that reveal his broad reading interests. These range from Thomas Jefferson to poetry to tennis and instructions for playing bridge. Hugo Black was a well-read man.
The books have been catalogued and are now arranged on the shelves, not according to Black’s original shelving preferences but by Library of Congress call number order so that the books can be easily located for research purposes.  All the books are accessible via online catalog searches. These books have a location code that indicates their placement in the Hugo Black Study, and another code indicating that they are part of the larger holdings of the library’s John C. Payne Special Collections. 
Distinguishing features of Black’s books are the broad subject matter, variation of format—cheap paperback copies are juxtaposed with valuable rare books—and the fact that he read and reread the materials regularly. In some books, his written comments reveal an ongoing conversation between Black and the author.
In addition, Black wrote to himself as he reread the books, providing examples of how his thought developed regarding certain topics. Black valued content over container and regularly perused used bookstores and catalogs. Roger K. Newman’s biography of Black contains an entire chapter, entitled “Books Are My Friends,” devoted to Black’s reading habits in which he discusses Black’s literary friendships with Will Durant, Carl Sandburg, and Alfred Knopf, among others. For example, Knopf published a book of Black’s opinions and he “usually took Black to dinner” several times each year. 
The classics were a significant influence on Black’s mindset, ideas, and interpretations. He studied Latin and Greek at Ashland College in Clay County, Alabama. This lifelong interest began when, as a law student, he sat in on an undergraduate English course taught by Dr. Charles H. Barnwell. This course prompted his “ever-increasing interest in the literature, philosophy and history of ancient Greece and the Greek way of life.”  Biographer Howard Ball comments that Black’s books by and about Greek philosophers, poets, and historians “are worn from repeated use, underlined and replete with marginalia, [and] indicative of the personal conversations Black had with the authors of these books.” 
Black also gave these books to his grandchildren, and had both his wives and his law clerks read Pericles and Aristotle, among many other Greek authors. While Aristotle was Black’s “favorite author,” Edith Hamilton’s The Greek Way was Black’s favorite book and the first required reading that he assigned to new law clerks.  He was so fond of the works of Hamilton that he “literally coerced his children into reading them, with further admonitions to read Livy or Plutarch when the boys were in college or in the military.”  The books in Black’s study include two, five-volume sets of Plutarch’s Lives and Writings; one singular Modern Library edition; and a five-volume set of Essays and Miscellanies, with an introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 
Among the vast array of valuable Hugo Black resources held by the Bounds Law Library is an autographed copy of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s book, Stride Toward Freedom. The library has shown this inscription to a variety of interested patrons, including local elementary schoolchildren and visiting legal scholars. The inscription reads; “To Justice Hugo Black, In appreciation for your genuine good-will, your perceptive vision, your broad humanitarian concern, and your unswerving devotion to the noble principles of our democracy, with warm regards, Martin King, Jr.”
The Hugo Black Study is extraordinary. In its totality, the study exists apart from its surroundings as an intact historical artifact. One of Black’s former law clerks, David Vann, upon seeing the study after it was relocated to the library, said that it was “kind of a shock really,” to see the study again.  Due to the careful preparation and design that went into the planning of the space, the room’s original furnishings, and the magic of Black’s books, the Hugo Black Study captures an authenticity of spirit that is as when Black used it almost fifty years ago. The essence of its atmosphere remains the same.
Julie Seraphina Griffith
 Griffith, Julie. “Digital Description and Access: The Hugo Black Collection at the University of Alabama School of Law Library.” A “New Voices” Award-Winning Paper presented at the 2002 Joint SCLA/SELA Conference. The Southeastern Librarian 51:3 (2003): 26-30.
 The Bounds Law Library Special Collections is named after former law professor John C. Payne.
 Newman, Roger K. Hugo Black: A Biography. 2nd edition. New York: Fordham University, 1997: 451-452.
 Black, Hugo L. “Reminiscences” Alabama Law Review 18:1 (1965): 3, 7.
 Ball, Howard. Hugo Black: Cold Steel Warrior. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996: 7.
 Newman, 445-446.
 Ball, 7.
 Plutarch’s Lives: the Translation called Dryden’s. Corrected from the Greek and revised by A. H. Clough. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low, and Searle, 1974: 5 volumes. Plutarch’s Lives: the Translation called Dryden’s. Corrected from the Greek and revised by A.H. Clough. New York: Colonial, 1905: 5 volumes. Plutarch: The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. Translated by John Dryden and revised by Arthur Hugh Clough. New York: Modern Library, 19-?. Plutarch’s Essays and Miscellanies: Comprising all his Works Collected under the Title of “Morals.” Translated from the Greek by several hands, Corrected and revised by William W. Goodwin. New York: Colonial, 1905: 5 volumes.
 Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s gorgeous illustration of Pandora’s Box provides a particularly appropriate example of Black’s treasured classics collection as well as many situations he encountered during his long career as a public servant. Pandora (meaning “all-gifted” in Greek and Black was certainly a gifted man) was given a beautiful box by Jupiter to present to her husband, Epimetheus, who was the brother of Prometheus. When Epimetheus opened the box, only hope remained, after “a multitude of evils and distempers…dispersed themselves all over the world.” Black remained ever hopeful as he addressed a multitude of controversial issues throughout his career.
 Pruitt, Paul M., Jr. “The Return of Hugo Black: the Significance of the Hugo Black Collection at the University of Alabama” Alabama Law Review 43:1 (1991): 301.
The winner of the 2018 Harper Lee Prize for legal fiction is C.E. Tobisman’s Proof. Tobisman is an author and appellate attorney living in Los Angeles, California. She is the eighth author to win the prize, authorized by the late Harper Lee, for a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the power of lawyers to effect change in society.
The prize was first awarded eight years ago to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Lee’s world-famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird. It is a joint award of the University of Alabama School of Law and the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal. This year’s winner was chosen by a distinguished panel of writers and scholars, including Dr. Hilary Green of the University of Alabama’s Gender and Race Studies Department; attorney and UA Law graduate Jini Koh; Tony Mauro, U.S. Supreme Court correspondent for Law.com and The National Law Journal; and Dr. Sena Jeter Naslund, author and former Director of the Spalding University MFA in Writing.
The Selection Committee praised Proof for answering Lee’s charge to recognize legal fiction that shows lawyers making positive changes in society. Dr. Green wrote that “Proof best captures the spirit of iconic characters [and] the role of the legal profession in addressing social issues.” The book’s protagonist Caroline Auden, wrote Green, “is the perfect cross between lawyer Atticus Finch and the grown-up Scout.”
Mr. Mauro added that “Proof proves that a true page-turner can also have substance. He also noted that character Caroline Auden “takes on elder abuse and corporate skullduggery with quick-witted determination. In the tradition of Harper Lee, Tobisman shows that lawyers can effect societal change.”
“It’s exciting to see this award go to a practicing attorney who’s relatively new to the fiction scene,” said Molly McDonough, editor and publisher of the ABA Journal. “We also love seeing attention being drawn to the important field of elder law.”
Tobisman responded: “I am honored, humbled, and frankly, totally stunned.” She further stated that “The spirit of To Kill a Mockingbird is the spirit of one person’s ability to make the world a little more fair. That the selection committee saw that spirit in my book is something that I will treasure forever.”
The 2018 prize was awarded on August 30 at the Library of Congress in conjunction with the National Book Festival.
The books presented in this post may seem to be nothing more than dusty old lawbooks, but they are in fact the mortal remains of Alabama’s frontier period. The energetic, mostly young men who made up Alabama’s legislatures faced the issues—national and local—of Jacksonian America. In response they spelled out their attitudes, self-interests, and startling biases for future generations to ponder. So in the adventurous spirit of that time, we invite our readers to read the signposts of what were once new ideas. We encourage you to visit our physical exhibit “Early Statutory Compilations and Codes” located in the main hall of UA’s Law Library.
Early Statutory Compilations and Codes
Occupying a parallel universe to Alabama’s case law, the state’s early statutory laws were diligently compiled every ten years. The legislature gave this task to highly regarded lawyers and judges who made every effort to produce volumes that would be intelligible to lawyers and lay persons. These compilers and codifiers kept in mind the frontier conditions prevailing over most of the state; they knew that these volumes were going to be packed in saddlebags and carried “on circuit.”
1823:The state of Alabama’s first statutory compilation was assembled by Harry Toulmin, a long-tenured territorial judge who had previously published “digests” of legislation for Kentucky (1802) and the Mississippi Territory (1807). Toulmin’s 1823 Digest of the Laws of the State of Alabama . . . is an important source of Mississippi legislation—relevant to early Alabama lawyers since Alabama had been, from 1798 to 1817, the eastern half of the Mississippi Territory. Arranged alphabetically, Toulmin’s Digest was the final masterpiece of a long life of service. Assisted by the distinguished attorney Henry Hitchcock, Toulmin worked confidently, subdividing statutes, adding historical notes, and omitting obsolete sections.
1833:John G. Aikin published the state’s first decennial digest in 1833. Aikin followed the same alphabetical arrangement as Toulmin, with helpful marginal notes and a copious index. In addition he provided an appendix containing the “Rules of Proceedings and Practice in the Courts.” The latter was needed, since in 1832 the legislature had created a three-judge Supreme Court, replacing the banc of circuit judges who had previously served as the state’s appellate tribunal. Aikin reissued his Digest with a supplement in 1836. Attorney and belletrist Alexander B. Meek published Meek’s Supplement in 1841, containing a militia code and important changes in chancery practice that had been adopted by the Supreme Court in January 1841.
1843:Alabama’s second decennial compilation was published in 1843. Its author was Clement Comer Clay, one of the state’s most notable and controversial Jacksonian Democrats. Clay served as governor from 1835 to 1837; from 1837 to 1841 he was U.S. senator from Alabama. The result of his labors was strikingly similar to that employed by Aikin. Like Aikin he included court rules—in Clay’s case, rules for the Supreme Court, circuit courts, county courts, and chancery courts, as well as treatments of judicial procedures in common law and chancery.
1852:The 1840s witnessed a national discussion of codification, culminating in New York’s celebrated Field Code. In 1849 Governor Henry W. Collier proposed creation of an Alabama code commission. Lawmakers complied and a commission headed by Collier’s former colleague John J. Ormond set to work. In February 1852 the legislature adopted the code they had produced. The 1852 Code of Alabama was controversial because of the modifications its authors made in the state’s common law pleading. Yet their work provided the foundation for Alabama codes for many decades.
Take the opportunity to visit our exhibit “Alice in Court” located in the main hall of UA’s Law Library before it is replaced. The following post, “Alice in Court,” seeks to describe the legal aspects of one of the world’s great fantasy stories–Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The exhibit includes works in a Lewis Carroll collection assembled by Litera Scripta co-editor Paul M. Pruitt, Jr.
Summary and Commentary:
On the afternoon of July 4, 1862, Charles Dodgson of Christ Church and Robinson Duckworth of Trinity, young Oxford dons, rowed three miles up the river Isis. They were accompanied by three young daughters of Christ Church dean Dr. H.G. Liddell and by Miss Prickett, the girls’ governess. By most accounts it was a golden afternoon.
Certainly it was golden for Dodgson—for in the course of rowing and picnicking he spun a long story in which the ten-year-old Alice (his particular favorite) followed a White Rabbit down a rabbit hole into the realm of Wonderland.
At her request he wrote and rewrote the tale, publishing it in 1865 under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It has since appeared in many editions, not to mention some three dozen films or tv shows.
Carroll’s purpose, to be sure, is to entertain, yet his Alice must deal with a series of animal and human characters who are self-willed, indifferent to her well-being, even dangerous—just like certain types of people who inhabit what we are pleased to call the real world. At the same time Alice’s new acquaintances may be poignantly bizarre, relentlessly and wrong-headedly logical, and (more often than not) determined to recite poetry or hear it recited. Beyond the inspired nonsense that Alice hears and speaks, there are grown-up dimensions to several of these encounters. Many of Carroll’s episodes summon up topical issues (of law, psychology, and social class, among others) that are very much alive today.
It was Carroll’s genius to place the challenging scenes of Wonderland in a dreamlike setting and to seed his story with rollicking puns, jokes, and verses. All of these elements are heightened by Alice’s childlike candor and inquisitiveness. The story is told from her perspective, which allowed Carroll to make excellent use of the “real” Alice Liddell’s independent-minded personality. Surely, Carroll was a pioneer in following a child’s path through a satirically informed world. Mark Twain (another pseudonymous writer) would not perfect his master creation, Huckleberry Finn, for another twenty years.
Carroll was acutely aware that children, more than the rest of us, experience abrupt physical transformations. In the course of the narrative, Alice must cope with sudden changes in her own size, beginning with her first explorations at the bottom of the rabbit hole. There she experiences sudden shrinkage after drinking from a bottle labeled “DRINK ME” and rapid growth after eating a cake marked “EAT ME.” After shedding copious tears, she shrinks again (the result of holding the White Rabbit’s fan) and finds that she is swimming in a pool of her own tears. There Alice meets number of animals, including a Dodo—widely assumed to be a self-caricature of Dodgson. They all dry off by means of a “Caucus Race” (a jab at Parliamentary politics), at the conclusion of which the Dodo announces: “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.”
Hugo Black and the Classics is an exhibit in the University of Alabama School of Law Library’s Hugo Black Study that offers insight into Justice Black’s strong interest in Greek and Roman classical works. The collection shown here represents one component of the more than one thousand volumes of Black’s books held at the Bounds Law Library.
HUGO BLACK AND THE CLASSICS
Hugo Lafayette Black (1886-1971) was a native of Clay County, Alabama, and a 1906 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law. Elected to the United States Senate in 1926, Black proved to be a reformist senator and leading New Dealer. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him to the United States Supreme Court.
Confirmed despite a furor over his earlier brief association with the Ku Klux Klan, Black served on the Supreme Court for thirty-four years, promoting the First Amendment, working to make the Bill of Rights applicable to the States, and supporting the landmark civil rights decisions of the Warren Court.
Both as Senator and Justice, Black sought to follow programs of reading and self-education. He found Will Durant’s 1929 article, “One Hundred Best Books,” to be particularly useful. Durant’s vision of history was anchored firmly in the Greek and Roman classics, and the writers of antiquity likewise appealed to Black.
In part this was because Black enjoyed the dignity and measured tone of the classics in translation, but even more because he viewed human nature as essentially unchanging. To his mind, the historians and philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome had set forth many observations perfectly applicable to mid-twentieth century America. Daniel J. Meador, who was a Supreme Court clerk for Justice Black in 1954, later commented on Black’s interest in the classics in Mr. Justice Black and His Books (1974), “If there is any single book out of the hundreds he owned which might be said to have been the favorite, it is Edith Hamilton’s The Greek Way…. Law clerks over a span of many years recall having The Greek Way recommended by Black in their initial interview with him, or in the early days of the clerkship…. More than any other single book, The Greek Way is essential reading for anyone attempting to understand the mind of Justice Black.”
In his quest for the classics, Black frequented the various out-of-print bookshops of the Washington, D.C. area. He was also a dedicated reader of dealers’ catalogues. Preferring older editions, he assembled a collection of more than forty volumes on the classics.
Numerous volumes contain Black’s annotations and underlined passages. These books, many of which reflect the height of Victorian classical scholarship, can be considered the cornerstone of Black’s larger library of more than one thousand volumes.
Accompanying this post are images of several pages featuring Black’s underlinings and annotations.
Black habitually wrote in his books, commenting on passages that he liked or disliked, summarizing texts, and pointing out ideas, facts, or passages for future reference. The pages seen here from Black’s copy of Aristotle on Government reflect his lawyerly interest in practical abstractions. See page 98 for his brief observations: “City—object of law,” “Object of Government to live well and happily,” and “Rulers should be best, not richest.”
As Aristotle turns to practical instructions concerning governance (p. 210), Black’s marginalia matches the philosopher’s didactic mood: “Laws not men” (for a passage arguing against giving magistrates discretionary powers), “Pay all Officials,” and most pointedly, “No life terms.” This last annotation, sadly, gives us no idea what Black, the holder for a lifetime appointment, actually thought about Aristotle’s advice.
Reading Hamilton’s commentary on Thucydides (p. 187), Black singled out a passage of some eight lines which eloquently discusses “greed, that strange passion for power and possession”—a complicated emotion that is, according to the author, at the root of all wars. Similarly in The Greek Way (p. 202), Black singles out a passage which, though written in Hamilton’s conversational style, constitutes a solemn warning to the powerful Democratic states of Black’s times—or of our times.
“She [Athens] had reached the point where she did not care to use fine words about ugly facts, and the reason was that they had ceased to look ugly to her.”
On March 1, 1954, two hundred and fifty-four members of the Eighty-third Congress were debating immigration issues when a Puerto Rican Flag was unfurled and pistol fire erupted from the “Ladies’ Gallery” of the House of Representatives chamber. Four Puerto Rican nationalists, Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andres Figueroa Cordero, and Irving Flores Rodriguez fired thirty shots at the representatives below, wounding five of them. One of the wounded was the Democratic representative from Alabama’s Fourth District, Kenneth A. Roberts who was shot in the leg. The suspects were arrested, tried and convicted in federal court, receiving what amounted to life sentences. Eventually, all were pardoned in 1978 and 1979 by President Jimmy Carter, and they returned to Puerto Rico. Lolita Lebron would become a Puerto Rican nationalist heroine. She died in 2010 from complications from bronchitis.
The Puerto Rican flag that Lebron had draped around her, one of the weapon magazines, and evidence envelopes were given to representative Roberts and are displayed in the library’s John C. Payne Reading Room.
Kenneth Allison Roberts was born in 1912 at Piedmont, Alabama, the second of four children born to John Franklin and Josephine Burton Roberts. He graduated from Howard College (Samford University) in Birmingham and entered the University of Alabama School of Law in 1932. In 1935, Roberts graduated from law school and was admitted to the bar. During World War II he joined the Navy and served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Roberts represented Alabama’s Fourth District in the U.S. Congress from 1951 through 1965. He is notable for his support of progressive legislation including: deduction of child care expenses for working mothers, air pollution control, safety belt standards, refrigerator safety, and the labeling of hazardous substances. Roberts co-authored legislation for migrant workers, children’s healthcare, and American Indian healthcare. Following his congressional career he resumed practicing law in Washington, D.C., and kept an office in Brewton, Alabama. He served on the U.S. Vehicle Equipment Safety Advisory and the National Highway Safety Advisory committees. Roberts died in Potomac, Maryland on May 9, 1980.
Ammunition magazine and evidence envelope. Recovered from floor of Gallery # 11 of the House of Representatives, U.S. Capitol
Chain of custody markings, Puerto Rican flag
Evidence envelope for Puerto Rican flag with chain of custody markings
Arrest of Capitol shooting suspects, March 1, 1954
Cartoon (Woofus Birds) concerning Kenneth Robert’s treatment following the shooting
The Knights Templar was a secret religious order established in 1119-1120 in the aftermath of the First Crusade and officially acknowledged by the Roman Catholic Church in 1129. The order was established to ensure the safety of Western pilgrims to the Holy Land; but its military successes, the prowess of its warriors, and eventually, the banking services it provided made it influential in Western Europe and within the Church. Over the centuries, rumors have swirled about the Templars and the great wealth that they acquired. In particular, they were thought to have discovered and protected the legendary treasures of Christianity: the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, pieces of the True Cross, and other relics. Such tales have inspired many conspiracy theories about the Order, including Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and Dan Brown’s cult phenomenon The Da Vinci Code.
What happened to the Order?
Once the Holy Land finally fell to the Muslims in the late 13th century, Papal and royal support for the Order declined. The Templars had become increasingly powerful as property owners and bankers to the kings and nobility of Europe. Likewise, rumors about the secret and possibly heretical rituals of the Order circulated throughout Europe until Pope Clement V ordered all European monarchs to arrest the Knights and seize Templar assets in 1307. Scores of Templar knights were tortured, forcing them to admit, often falsely, to heretical behavior. Pressured by King Philip of France, who was heavily in debt to the Templars, Pope Clement dissolved the Order in 1312.
How is it perceived now?
Although the Order was dissolved by the Church and vilified by all Western monarchies in the 14th century, the Knights Templar has survived to this day in other forms. Most notably, the York Rite of the Order of the Knights Templar remains an important adjunct of Freemasonry in both America and Western Europe. In the nineteenth century the Masons established Templar orders in almost every American state and held both national and local conventions. The rituals of the medieval Knights Templar are preserved as Masonic rituals and are described with great detail in Freemason ritual books. The Order continues to be a great philanthropic society in the United States.
In Great Britain, the Templar aura lives in the education of lawyers. Two of the four Inns of Court in England are the Inner Temple and Middle Temple—named for the Templar buildings in which these Inns are housed. Scores of students have and continue to study in these Inns and remain members—Templars—as they begin their law careers. Even some of the authors of the U.S. Constitution were educated in these Inns, inspiring them to form American counterparts to the British Inns of Court.
Internationally, the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (not affiliated with Masonic Templars) has recently achieved NGO status from the United Nations as a charitable organization.
In 2001, a document was found in the Vatican Secret Archives; incorrectly filed, it had lain undiscovered for centuries. It provided evidence that Pope Clement had absolved the Templars of heresy in 1308—four years before excommunicating them under French pressure. The Vatican published this discovery—known as the Chinon document—in October 2007. Thus the Church now maintains that the 14th century persecution of the Knights Templar was unjust. The Order was not heretical in any way, but was dissolved for political reasons.
The Knights Templar is represented in the Bounds Law Library’s collections mostly in the form of nineteenth and early twentieth century Masonic materials. Many rituals of the medieval order are depicted—often in great detail—in these works. Selections from our collection include manuals, bylaws, rituals, an “Authentic Account of the Imprisonment, Torture, and Martyrdom of Free Masons and Knights Templars…,” as well as an 1861 Alabama legislative act incorporating the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar. The exhibit also features an original document; a 1911 certificate of knighthood from the Grand Commandery of the state of Tennessee.
The Bounds Law Library’s Templar exhibit is located in the John C. Payne Special Collections Reading Room and we welcome visitors during regular Special Collections hours. Chainmail coif, swords, and shields must be checked at the circulation desk!
Legislative Act Incorporating Knights Templar, Acts of Alabama, 1861
Report of the Triennial Committee, Boston, 1895
Bookplate signed by Samuel Lawrence, Chairman of the Triennial Committee.
Samuel Lawrence, Chairman of the Triennial Committee
Detail, Report of the Triennial Committee, Boston, 1895
Following significant renovations this summer, the Hugo Black Study at the Bounds Law Library has reopened to visitors. The exhibit, which is a replica of Justice Black’s Alexandria Virginia study, underwent improvements including repainting, a new ceiling, and redesigned lighting. The study contains contents and furnishings donated by Mrs. Elizabeth Black and more than one thousand volumes belonging to Justice Black that were transferred to the law school by the Supreme Court Library in 1983. As United States senator and supreme court justice, Black collected the works of his favorite authors and accumulated an impressive number of volumes on law, history, philosophy, and other topics. He underlined and annotated many of his books, making them a unique source of insight into his thoughts and opinions.
The collection is located in room 211 of the Bounds Law Library and is available to scholars by appointment, and the public is invited to view the study during regular library hours.