[Congressional Record Volume 154, Number 17 (Monday, February 4, 2008)]
[Senate]
[Pages S603-S607]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




SENATE RESOLUTION 442--COMMEMORATING THE LIFE OF A. LEON HIGGINBOTHAM, 
                                   JR

  Mr. CASEY (for himself, Mr. Specter, and Mr. Leahy) submitted the 
following resolution; which was considered and agreed to:

                              S. Res. 442

       Whereas the late A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., dedicated his 
     life to eliminating racial barriers in the society of the 
     United States;
       Whereas, having grown up during the Great Depression and 
     the era of Jim Crow laws, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., overcame 
     a childhood marked by economic hardship and segregation;
       Whereas, having personally experienced the effects of 
     racism, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., sought an education and 
     career in law during which he fought institutionalized racism 
     in the United States judicial system;
       Whereas A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., began his legal career 
     as a law clerk to Justice Curtis Bok of the Superior Court of 
     Pennsylvania and soon became the youngest and

[[Page S604]]

     first African-American Assistant District Attorney in the 
     city of Philadelphia;
       Whereas, in 1954, when African Americans were largely 
     excluded from professional opportunities, A. Leon 
     Higginbotham, Jr., became a founding member of Norris, 
     Schmidt, Green, Harris, & Higginbotham, the first African-
     American law firm in Philadelphia;
       Whereas, while still in private practice, A. Leon 
     Higginbotham, Jr., served as Special Deputy Attorney General 
     for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Special Hearing Officer 
     in the Department of Justice, President of the Philadelphia 
     chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of 
     Colored People, a member of the Executive Board of the 
     Governor's Committee of One Hundred for Better Education, 
     Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Fair Employment Practices 
     Commission, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Human Rights 
     Commission, and a member of the board of directors for 
     various legal, political, and nonprofit organizations within 
     Pennsylvania;
       Whereas, having been appointed by President John Fitzgerald 
     Kennedy to the Federal Trade Commission in 1962, A. Leon 
     Higginbotham, Jr., became not only the first African American 
     to serve on a Federal regulatory commission but also the 
     youngest person to be named as a Commissioner of the Federal 
     Trade Commission;
       Whereas, having recognized A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.'s 
     gifts as both a lawyer and a public servant, both President 
     Kennedy and President Lyndon Baines Johnson nominated A. Leon 
     Higginbotham, Jr., as a Federal judge on the United States 
     District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania;
       Whereas, upon confirmation as a Federal judge at the age of 
     35, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., became the youngest person 
     appointed to the United States District Court for the Eastern 
     District of Pennsylvania and one of the youngest ever 
     appointed to a Federal bench;
       Whereas, in his role as a Federal judge, A. Leon 
     Higginbotham, Jr., served as a mentor to numerous young 
     attorneys, affording them the opportunity to gain critical 
     exposure to the legal profession;
       Whereas A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., played an extraordinary 
     role in the civil rights movement as an advisor to President 
     Johnson after the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther 
     King, Jr., and as a member of the National Commission on 
     Causes and Prevention of Violence;
       Whereas, as the first African-American member of the Yale 
     University Board of Trustees, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., 
     successfully fought to allow women to enroll as 
     undergraduates in Yale College;
       Whereas, in 1977, President Jimmy Carter acknowledged A. 
     Leon Higginbotham Jr.'s work as both a judge and a scholar 
     and appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals for 
     the Third Circuit;
       Whereas A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr,. sat on the Court of 
     Appeals for 16 years and served as Chief Judge from 1989 
     until 1991 and as Senior Judge through the completion of his 
     public career in 1993;
       Whereas, through his rulings and subsequent writing, A. 
     Leon Higginbotham, Jr., vigorously fought racial bias and 
     prejudice;
       Whereas, upon retirement from the bench, A. Leon 
     Higginbotham, Jr., became the Public Service Jurisprudence 
     Professor at Harvard University, dedicating the remainder of 
     his life to educating and empowering future generations to 
     continue the pursuit of equal justice under the law;
       Whereas, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., served as the chairman 
     of an American Bar Association panel that in 1993 issued the 
     landmark report ``America's Children at Risk: A National 
     Agenda for Legal Action'', studying the status of children in 
     the society and legal system of the United States;
       Whereas, in 1993, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., served as 
     counsel to the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, & 
     Garrison, where he litigated a host of pro bono matters, 
     including voting rights in Louisiana, and advocated free 
     elections in South Africa;
       Whereas, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., brought his passion for 
     equal justice into the international arena as a consultant to 
     the President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, on the 
     formation of the Constitution of South Africa, and as an 
     advocate for grass roots democracy education in South Africa;
       Whereas, in 1995, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., continued his 
     commitment to public service when appointed by President 
     William Jefferson Clinton to the United States Commission on 
     Civil Rights;
       Whereas, as an author and contributor to more than 100 
     publications and academic works, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., 
     left a legacy as a renowned scholar of racial and social 
     justice issues in the United States;
       Whereas, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.'s critically acclaimed 
     historical works, including ``In the Matter of Color: The 
     Colonial Period'', published in 1978, and ``Shades of 
     Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions in the American 
     Legal Process'', published in 1996, continue to provide 
     invaluable insight into the history of race relations in the 
     United States;
       Whereas, as a sought-after public speaker, after his 
     retirement A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., delivered more than 100 
     speeches annually to motivate the next generation of people 
     in the United States to continue the fight for racial 
     justice;
       Whereas A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., received numerous honors 
     and awards during his lifetime, including the Presidential 
     Medal of Freedom, the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award, 
     the National Association for the Advancement of Colored 
     People Spingarn Medal, the American Civil Liberties Union 
     Medal, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Philadelphia 
     Bar Association, the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar 
     Association, America's Ten Outstanding Young Men of 1963 from 
     the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce, and honorary 
     degrees from more than 60 universities; and
       Whereas A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.'s work as an esteemed 
     jurist, scholar, and public servant helped transform the 
     Nation's perception of race: Now, therefore, be it
       Resolved, That the Senate--
       (1) commemorates the life of the late A. Leon Higginbotham, 
     Jr.;
       (2) salutes the lasting legacy of A. Leon Higginbotham, 
     Jr.'s achievements; and
       (3) encourages the continued pursuit of A. Leon 
     Higginbotham, Jr.'s vision of eliminating racial prejudice 
     from all aspects of our society.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The senior Senator from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, at the outset, I compliment my 
distinguished colleague from Pennsylvania, Senator Casey, and 
congratulate him for his initiative in organizing the tribute to Judge 
Higginbotham.
  Later this afternoon, there will be a symposium on the legacy of 
Judge Higginbotham with very distinguished scholars: Dr. John Hope 
Franklin, Dr. and Professor Charles Ogletree, and the Honorable Eleanor 
Holmes Norton, who was Judge Higginbotham's first law clerk.
  Judge Higginbotham's record has been appropriately described by 
Senator Casey. I know the managers are interested to move ahead, so I 
ask unanimous consent that the full text of my statement be printed in 
the Record, along with an article published, which I wrote, in the 
Philadelphia Tribune on January 27 of this year.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

           Honoring the Late Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.

       Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I seek recognition to join 
     Senator Casey in introducing a resolution to pay tribute to 
     the late Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.
        Judge Higginbotham was a Philadelphia lawyer, legal 
     scholar, jurist and statesman who did not give in to 
     prejudice, despair, or age. From his appointment at the age 
     of 35 to the federal bench until his death at age 70, he 
     pursued civil rights, justice and equality for all Americans. 
     His message was positive--while much had been accomplished, 
     even more remains to be done. Initially studying engineering 
     in college, he said he was motivated to study law when he was 
     living off campus in an unheated attic, the outside 
     temperature hit zero, and the university president said he 
     was denying the request to allow Higginbotham to live in a 
     heated section of the dorm because ``the law doesn't require 
     us to.'' He said another incident was a second catalyst: when 
     traveling as a member of his college's debate team, 
     Higginbotham was denied a room in a hotel with his classmates 
     and was required to stay at a rat-infested ``colored YMCA.''
       After his graduation from Yale Law School in 1952, 
     Higginbotham received a chilly reception and no job offers 
     from law firms in Philadelphia. Undeterred, he began his 
     career as a law clerk for Judge Curtis Bok of the 
     Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Having demonstrated 
     himself to be a capable and intelligent lawyer, he was hired 
     by then district attorney Richardson Dilworth. In 1954, he 
     left the office to become a founding member of the first 
     African American law firm in Philadelphia: Norris, Schmidt, 
     Green, Harris, and Higginbotham. From 1960 to 1962, he 
     continued to advance civil rights by serving as president of 
     the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP.
       The Senate confirmed Judge Higginbotham's appointment to 
     the federal bench in 1964, despite procedural obstacles in 
     the Senate Judiciary Committee. When he parked his car on his 
     first day as a judge, a guard made a derogatory comment and 
     told him the lot was reserved for judges. Judge Higginbotham 
     later described the incident as ``typical of a lot of things 
     which have happened to both minorities and to women.'' 
     Indeed, Higginbotham was also a strong advocate for women's 
     rights. As the first African American trustee of Yale, he 
     pushed for opening the University to women. His first law 
     clerk was Eleanor Holmes, who later became Eleanor Holmes 
     Norton, who currently serves as the Delegate to the U.S. 
     House of Representatives for the District of Columbia.
       Judge Higginbotham was a prolific writer who focused on 
     facts and careful legal analysis. In his nearly three decades 
     as a judge, Judge Higginbotham authored more than 600 
     published opinions, taught at the University of Pennsylvania, 
     and wrote important books on the history of race in America--
     books such as ``In the Matter of Color'' and ``Shades of 
     Freedom''. After retiring from the bench, Judge Higginbotham 
     founded the South Africa Free Election Fund and helped

[[Page S605]]

     South Africa's newly elected government draft a new 
     constitution.
       Nelson Mandela said ``Judge Higginbotham's work and the 
     example he set made a critical contribution to the course of 
     the rule of law in the United States and a difference in the 
     lives of African Americans, and indeed the lives of all 
     Americans. But his influence also crossed borders and 
     inspired many who fought for freedom and equality in other 
     countries. . . .'' Jesse Jackson said of Judge Higginbotham: 
     ``What Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston were to 
     the first half of this century, Judge Higginbotham was to the 
     second half.'' After his funeral, Rosa Parks commented, ``I 
     think he really had a great idea that we are all equal 
     people.''
       As Yale Law graduates, former district attorneys and public 
     servants, Higginbotham and I often crossed paths. I am 
     grateful for the opportunity to have known this extraordinary 
     man and his passionate and steadfast dedication to civil 
     rights and the betterment of this country. As we celebrate 
     Black History Month, I am honored to co-sponsor with my 
     colleague from Pennsylvania, Senator Casey, a resolution 
     honoring the lifetime achievement of the late Judge A. Leon 
     Higginbotham, Jr.
                                  ____


             [From the Philadelphia Tribune, Jan. 27, 2008]

                           Leon Higginbotham

                           (By Arlen Specter)

       Two weeks before his death in 1998, A. Leon Higginbotham, 
     Jr. appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to state 
     his view that the charges against President Clinton did not 
     warrant removal from office. When a Congressman said that 
     ``real Americans'' thought otherwise, Higginbotham replied: 
     ``Sir, my father was a laborer, my mother a domestic. I came 
     up the hard way. Don't lecture to me about the real 
     America.'' After the hearing, C-SPAN cameras showed committee 
     members and staffers surrounding Higginbotham to request 
     photographs, while he leaned on the cane he used following 
     three life-threatening operations.
        Leon Higginbotham was a Philadelphia lawyer, legal 
     scholar, jurist and statesman who did not give in to 
     prejudice, despair, or age. From his appointment at the age 
     of 35 to the federal bench until his death at age 70, he 
     pursued civil rights, justice and equality for all Americans. 
     His message was a positive one: while much had been 
     accomplished, even more remains to be done. Initially 
     studying engineering in college, he said he was motivated to 
     study law when he was living off campus in an unheated attic, 
     the outside temperature hit zero, and the university 
     president denied the request to allow Higginbotham to live in 
     a heated section of the dorm because ``the law doesn't 
     require us to.'' He said another incident served as a 
     catalyst: when traveling as a member of his college's debate 
     team, Higginbotham was denied a room in a hotel with his 
     classmates and was required to stay at a rat-infested 
     ``colored YMCA.''
        After his graduation from Yale Law School in 1952, 
     Higginbotham received a chilly reception and no job offers 
     from law firms in Philadelphia. Undeterred, he began his 
     career as a law clerk for Judge Curtis Bok of the 
     Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Having demonstrated 
     himself to be a capable and intelligent lawyer, he was hired 
     by then District Attorney Richardson Dilworth. In 1954, he 
     left the office to become a member of the first African 
     American law firm in Philadelphia, Norris, Schmidt, Green, 
     Harris, and Higginbotham. From 1960 to 1962, he continued to 
     advance civil rights by serving as President of the 
     Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP.
        The Senate confirmed Judge Higginbotham's appointment to 
     the federal bench in 1964, despite procedural obstacles in 
     the Senate Judiciary Committee. When he parked his car on his 
     first day as a judge, a guard yelled ``Hey, boy'' and told 
     him the lot was reserved for judges. Judge Higginbotham later 
     described the incident as ``typical of a lot of things which 
     have happened to both minorities and to women.'' Indeed, 
     Higginbotham was also a strong advocate for women's rights. 
     As the first African American trustee of Yale, he pushed for 
     opening the University to women. His first law clerk was 
     Eleanor Holmes, who later became Eleanor Holmes Norton, who 
     currently serves as the Delegate to the U.S. House of 
     Representatives for the District of Columbia.
        Higginbotham was a prolific writer who focused on facts 
     and careful legal analysis. In his 13 years as a trial judge 
     and his tenure on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals from 
     1977 to 1993, Higginbotham authored more than 600 published 
     opinions, taught at the University of Pennsylvania, and wrote 
     important books on the history of race in America in Shades 
     of Freedom and In the Matter of Color. After retiring from 
     the bench, Judge Higginbotham founded the South Africa Free 
     Election Fund and helped South Africa's newly-elected 
     government draft a new constitution.
        Nelson Mandela said ``Judge Higginbotham's work and the 
     example he set made a critical contribution to the course of 
     the rule of law in the United States and a difference in the 
     lives of African Americans, and indeed the lives of all 
     Americans. But his influence also crossed borders and 
     inspired many who fought for freedom and equality in other 
     countries . . . .'' Jesse Jackson said of Judge Higginbotham: 
     ``What Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston were to 
     the first half of this century, Judge Higginbotham was to the 
     second half.'' After his funeral, Rosa Parks commented, ``I 
     think he really had a great idea that we are all equal 
     people.''
        As Yale Law graduates, former District Attorneys and 
     public servants, Higginbotham and I often crossed paths. I am 
     grateful for the opportunity to have known this extraordinary 
     man and his passionate and steadfast dedication to civil 
     rights and the betterment of this country. As we celebrate 
     Black History Month, we should consider the lessons we can 
     learn from the life and words of Leon Higginbotham.

  Mr. SPECTER. Just a few personal comments.
  Mr. President, I knew Judge Higginbotham and am honored and proud to 
have called him a personal friend. He graduated from Yale Law School a 
little ahead of me. He found it very difficult to get a job because of 
racial prejudice, which was present in Philadelphia at the time in the 
early 1950s. It was the same era when William T. Coleman, Jr.--who had 
been a law clerk to Justice Felix Frankfurter and later was Secretary 
of Transportation in the Ford administration--could not find a job and 
had to travel to New York City to find a job.
  Leon Higginbotham clerked for a very distinguished common pleas 
judge, Curtis Bok--really an outstanding scholar and later a 
Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice. He found a job with the district 
attorney, a very distinguished district attorney, Richardson Dilworth, 
who later became mayor of Philadelphia.
  Judge Higginbotham then was a founding partner of an African-American 
law firm: Norris, Schmidt, Green, Harris & Higginbotham. That is what 
had to be done in those days to find a job and develop a law practice 
if you were an African-American in the city of Philadelphia--really 
across our country.
  Senator Casey has referred to the indignity Judge Higginbotham had as 
a student at Purdue, when he was excluded from living in a heated 
dormitory because it was not required by the law.
  He was a noted scholar, an author, and wrote the books ``In the 
Matter of Color'' and ``Shades of Freedom.'' In my prepared text, I 
comment about compliments paid to Judge Higginbotham by Nelson Mandela, 
Jesse Jackson, and Rosa Parks.
  This is a good occasion--Black History Month--to pause for a few 
moments to pay tribute to a great American and a great jurist, a member 
of the Federal Trade Commission, a Federal judge at 35, and later chief 
judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
  Mr. CASEY. Mr. President, I rise today in support of a resolution 
honoring the lifetime achievements of Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. 
The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy, as well as my 
colleague from Pennsylvania and ranking member of the Judiciary 
Committee, Senator Specter, join me as original cosponsors of this 
resolution. We are honored to pay tribute to a remarkable lawyer, 
jurist, scholar and advocate whose story inspires us.
  The Bible says, ``There were giants in the earth in those days.'' 
Leon Higginbotham was a giant. He stood six feet six inches all and 
towered above most of the rest of us in his intellect, his compassion 
and his commitment to equality. Today, those who knew him and worked 
with him, and those who, like me, admired him from afar, have gathered 
in our Nation's Capital to honor his life and his legacy.
  Aloysius Leon Higginbotham was born 80 years ago this month. The 
United States was about to enter the Great Depression and many 
Americans suffered under the yoke of racism and institutional, 
legalized segregation. Leon's young mother, who left school in the 
seventh grade, and his father, who worked in a Trenton, NJ factory, 
faced a world where most avenues to success were closed to African 
Americans.
  Young Leon Higginbotham grew up in a household that valued hard work 
and education, yet the African-American community had few resources to 
support good schooling. ``Separate but equal'' grade schools offered a 
limited curriculum, small schoolhouses and often one teacher for 
multiple grades. This left black students effectively unable to gain 
admission to the nearby white high schools. In fact, in the four 
decades preceding Leon's entrance into

[[Page S606]]

junior high, no black student from his school in Ewing Township, NJ had 
ever enrolled in a white high school. Without the required 
prerequisites, especially training in Latin, the doors to academic 
success were nailed shut.
  Fortunately, Leon's parents believed those doors could be pried open. 
His mother, Emma Lee, who worked for a wealthy family, constantly told 
her son that education was the ``sole passport to a better life.'' In a 
bold, unprecedented move, she negotiated Leon's entrance into one of 
the best high schools in Trenton. Despite having no foundation in 
Latin, Leon managed to pass his freshman course. Impressed by his 
intellectual ability, Leon's Latin teacher offered to tutor him over 
the summer. Between jobs as a busboy in a local hotel and as a laborer 
in factories, he rode his bicycle nearly 20 miles to his teacher's 
home, several times a week, to improve his Latin skills. Mirroring his 
father's work ethic and his mother's passion for learning, Leon 
overcame the odds and earned his high school diploma.
  In 1944, at age 16, Leon enrolled in the engineering program at 
Purdue University, where the student body had 6000 white students and 
12 black students. Leon and his 11 fellow students were required to 
live in the unheated attic of a campus building. As autumn became 
winter, snow found its way through the flimsy roof, and the 12 students 
shivered their nights away, wearing earmuffs, shoes and multiple layers 
of clothing to bed. As the Midwestern winter grew colder, Leon 
requested a meeting with the university president to negotiate for a 
warmer place to sleep, noting that all of the white students slept in 
heated dormitories. The president responded, ``Higginbotham, the law 
doesn't require us to let colored students in the dorm. We will never 
do it, and you either accept things as they are or leave the university 
immediately.'' Leon found the president's comments especially troubling 
in light of the thousands of African Americans who were then serving 
their nation in World War II. He left the president's office determined 
to find a way both to serve his country and bring about lasting change.
  Leon continued his academic pursuits at Purdue and became an avid 
debater, qualifying to attend the Big Ten debate championships. After 
being forced to, sleep in a YMCA overrun with mice, while his white 
teammates were lodged in a comfortable hotel, Leon finally decided to 
leave Purdue and enroll in Antioch College. His strong academic 
performance at Antioch persuaded members of the faculty and the board 
of trustees to encourage him to enroll in law school. Leon received an 
offer of assistance from a benefactor which would cover his first 
semester at Yale Law School, but Rutgers University offered him a full 
scholarship. Characteristically, Leon resisted pressure from friends 
and family and chose the steeper path, Yale.
  He arrived at Yale with a cardboard suitcase and little understanding 
of the challenges that lay ahead. He was overwhelmed at first by the 
education and polish of his fellow students, many of them sons or 
relatives of lawyers, judges, or prominent politicians. As he recalled, 
``my father was a laborer, two books in the house. One, we had 
purchased, a Bible; the other, my mother had gotten out of the trash of 
one of the people she worked for, an old dictionary. . . . I did not 
begin Yale at the same starting line as many of my contemporaries.''

  Leon balanced his time between working at a corner store in New Haven 
and wrestling diligently with the law. As a research assistant to Prof. 
John P. Frank, Leon demonstrated ``an extraordinary verbal talent'' and 
achieved what Dean Wesley Sturges described as more honors in oral 
advocacy than anyone else in the law school at the time. Leon later 
said that the most significant event in his law school career was 
traveling to Washington, DC, to witness Thurgood Marshall's passionate 
advocacy before the Supreme Court in the Sweatt v. Painter case. From 
that moment on, Leon committed his considerable talents to the fight 
for what he called the ``promise of freedom'' for all people. The child 
who rode his bicycle to Latin lessons graduated from Yale Law School as 
the towering man with the deep baritone voice, who would succeed in a 
world almost unimaginable to his parents.
  Leon decided to begin his legal career in Philadelphia. This was not 
an easy task in the Philadelphia of the early 1950s, but a few people 
recognized his potential and helped him become a clerk for Judge Curtis 
Bok of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. He worked hard and soon 
became the youngest--and first ever African-American assistant district 
attorney--under Richardson Dilworth, who later served as mayor of 
Philadelphia. After 2 years in the DA's office; Leon left to found, 
with another future Federal judge, Clifford Scott Green, and others, 
Philadelphia's first African-American law firm, Norris, Schmidt, Green, 
Harris & Higginbotham. The Norris firm became the launching pad for a 
generation of successful African-American lawyers. At the same time, he 
pushed for social change in various roles, including president of the 
Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, Special Hearing Officer for the 
United States Department of Justice, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania 
Human Rights Commission, and Special Deputy Attorney General of 
Pennsylvania. While juggling these public commitments, Leon always 
maintained close ties to the community as a director of numerous legal, 
political and nonprofit organizations.
  In 1962, President John F. Kennedy appointed Leon to the Federal 
Trade Commission, making him the first African-American ever to serve 
on a Federal regulatory commission. Soon thereafter, Kennedy recognized 
Leon's work as a lawyer and public servant and nominated him for a 
Federal judgeship in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. However, his 
confirmation faced strong resistance and repeated delays engineered by 
some Members of the United States Senate. After President Kennedy's 
death, President Lyndon B. Johnson overrode the resistance to Leon's 
nomination by giving him a recess appointment to the Eastern District 
Court. At the age of 35, Judge Leon Higginbotham became one of the 
youngest men ever appointed to the Federal bench.
  From the beginning of his career on the bench, Judge Higginbotham was 
known for his scholarly, well-written opinions and his imperturbable 
judicial temperament. His tenure was also marked by his focus on the 
generations to follow him, what many came to call his ``people 
legacy.'' His warmth extended particularly to those on what he referred 
to as ``the lower end of the Courthouse bureaucracy.'' The Judge 
permitted young clerks and staffers to accompany him in all his 
activities so they could learn the full nature of the legal profession. 
Students from Philadelphia public high schools could be found working 
as interns in his office. He soon developed a diverse entourage that 
became known as the ``Higginbotham menagerie.'' Many of his proteges 
moved on to lead outstanding careers in the public arena. In fact, one 
of our congressional colleagues, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton 
of the District of Columbia, served as his first law clerk and is a 
living symbol of Judge Higginbotham's legacy.
  In 1968, in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and 
Robert Kennedy, despair and violence escalated across our country. 
President Johnson repeatedly called on Judge Higginbotham for advice on 
how to restore hope and optimism in the hearts of the American people. 
Johnson recognized Judge Higginbotham's wisdom in the face of crisis 
and appointed him to the Commission on Causes and Prevention of 
Violence. Judge Higginbotham used that opportunity to push for ways to 
quell the violence of the time and to shrink the divide between Black 
and White America. The Judge also exerted his influence beyond racial 
issues and advocated for women's rights. As a trustee of the Yale 
Corporation, he successfully fought to allow undergraduate enrollment 
for women at Yale College.
  In 1977, Judge Higginbotham's accomplishments, both on the bench and 
in civic matters, led President Jimmy Carter to appoint him to the 
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Judge 
Higginbotham sat on the Third Circuit for 16 years, served as chief 
judge from 1989 to 1991, and as senior judge through the completion of 
his judicial career in 1993. He described his judicial philosophy as 
``evolutionary in terms of what is fair and just in

[[Page S607]]

a society.'' Through his rulings and subsequent writings, he reminded 
us that when our country was founded, the hope and promise of the 
Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were tarnished by the 
fact that the United States had over 500,000 slaves. Judge Higginbotham 
believed that equality for all under the law requires progressive 
interpretation of our founding documents and continued focus on the 
inequities that still exist.

       As he put it, ``. . . It is possible that with the obvious 
     pride we have in the few who make it, that we may fail to 
     recognize how long the road behind us is and how many there 
     are on that road who still are deprived by history of the 
     utilization of their talents. . . . We cannot become 
     anesthetized by the success of a few and oblivious to the 
     deprivation of the many.''

  In 1993, Judge Higginbotham retired from the bench and began a new 
phase of his quest to achieve racial equality under the law. Even after 
three decades of remarkable public service, Judge Higginbotham took no 
time to rest, often quoting Robert Frost's words, `` I have promises to 
keep. And miles to go before I sleep.'' He focused his post-judicial 
life on the future, often asking who in the next generation would 
``carry the baton into the new millennium.'' As a professor at Harvard 
University, he poured his energy and passion into preparing tomorrow's 
leaders to take that baton. He taught numerous courses and many of his 
students recall his oft-repeated words: ``If you do not stand up for 
something, you'll fall for anything.''
  Judge Higginbotham's work as a scholar and historian helped transform 
our Nation's perception of race in America. His thorough research of 
nearly 250 years of legal documents involving racial issues formed the 
basis for a flood of books and articles in which he dissected the many 
aspects of discrimination embedded in America's legal system. For 
example, he hosted a conference on the centennial of Plessy v. 
Ferguson, using the occasion to urge the young minds of the next 
generation to take full advantage of the hard-won opportunities created 
by Brown v. Board of Education. He once commented to a group of recent 
law school graduates, ``What should be our theme to America?. . . It is 
that in the long, bloody and terrible history of race in America, there 
is no more time for foolishness.'' His words and his actions still 
compel each of us to face the ugly parts of our Nation's history as 
well as the glorious ones, and to respond, with commitment, to the 
public arena.
  Many remember Judge Higginbotham as what we now call a multitasker, 
especially during his retirement. When he wasn't teaching, he was 
frequently in a car on the way to the airport, dictating one of the 
over 100 speeches he delivered each year. When not addressing 
audiences, he often could be found testifying in front of the Senate 
Judiciary Committee, attending monthly meetings of the United States 
Commission on Human Rights, serving on numerous boards of trustees, 
including the New York Times and National Geographic, or arguing voting 
rights cases on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus before the 
Supreme Court. He extended his fervor for equal justice overseas as a 
consultant to President Nelson Mandela on the formation of the South 
African Constitution and as an advocate for democracy education in 
South Africa.
  Not surprisingly, Judge Higginbotham was recognized with numerous 
awards for his leadership as jurist, historian, scholar, advocate, 
mentor and ordinary citizen. His many honors include the Presidential 
Medal of Freedom, the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award, the NAACP 
Spingarn Medal, the ACLU Medal, the National Human Relations Award from 
the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Silver Gavel Award 
from the American Bar Association, the Lifetime Achievement Award from 
the Philadelphia Bar Association, the Outstanding Young Man Award from 
the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and honorary degrees from over 60 
universities.
  Judge Higginbotham is remembered by many, including me, as a true 
American hero: a giant among men, who began his life in the most modest 
of circumstances, yet rose to extraordinary heights. Rosa Parks, 
another American whose own story continues to inspire us, appropriately 
noted after his passing, ``I think he really had a great idea that we 
are all equal people.'' Rosa Parks'' words capture what I believe to be 
the essence of Judge Higginbotham's legacy: he helped pry open the 
doors leading to the American dream for ordinary people from all walks 
of life.
  So in this month when we celebrate the achievements of African 
Americans, I am honored to pay tribute to Leon Higginbotham's life of 
courage and commitment to justice; of integrity and intellect; his life 
of advocacy and action, service and scholarship. Judge Higginbotham's 
life was a testament to the enduring power of the words ``we shall 
overcome.'' Leon Higginbotham helped our Nation move closer to the 
ideal expressed on the building across the street from this chamber: 
``Equal Justice under Law.'' We are proud to have his wife, Evelyn 
Brooks Higginbotham, as well as numerous family members, friends, 
former clerks and colleagues here with us today as we honor his life 
and work and seek to keep the flame of Leon Higginbotham burning ever 
brightly.

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