CONSTANCE BAKER MOTLEY Biography - Crimes, Laws and people


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Name: Constance Baker Motley                                                         
Born: 14 September 1921                                                             
Died: 28 September 2005                                                             
Constance Baker Motley (14 September 1921 - 28 September 2005) was an African       
American civil rights activist, lawyer, judge, and state senator.                   
She was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the ninth of twelve children. Her           
parents had immigrated from Nevis, in the Caribbean; her mother was the founder     
of the New Haven chapter of the NAACP. With financial help from a local             
philanthropist, Clarence Blakeslee, she initially attended Fisk University, a       
historically black college in Tennessee, before deciding to move to an               
integrated university. Motley graduated from New York University in 1943, then       
received her law degree from Columbia Law School in 1946. Her legal career began     
as a law clerk in the fledgling NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF),     
where she worked with Thurgood Marshall, Jack Greenberg, and others. The LDF's       
first female attorney, she became Associate Counsel to the LDF, making her the       
NAACP's lead trial attorney.                                                         
In 1950 she wrote the original complaint in the case of Brown v. Board of           
Education. The first African-American woman ever to argue a case before the U.S.     
Supreme Court, in Meredith v. Fair she successfully won James Meredith's effort     
to be the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi. Motley       
was successful in nine of the ten cases she argued before the Supreme Court. The     
tenth decision, regarding jury composition, was eventually overturned in her         
favor. She was otherwise a key legal strategist in the civil rights movement,       
helping to desegregate Southern schools, buses, and lunch counters.                 
In 1964, Motley became the first African American woman elected to the New York     
State Senate. In 1965, she was chosen Manhattan Borough President—the first       
woman and first African American in that position. In 1966, President Lyndon         
Johnson named her a federal court judge—the first African American woman so       
named—where she continued (including a term as chief judge) until her death. At   
the time of her death, she was a district judge for the United States District       
Court Southern District of New York.                                                 
In 1993, she was inducted into National Women's Hall of Fame. In 2001, President     
Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal. The NAACP awarded her     
the Spingarn Medal, the organization's highest honor, in 2003. Motley was a         
prominent honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.                       
Motley died of congestive heart failure on September 28, 2005 at NYU Downtown       
Hospital in New York City. Her funeral was held at Saint Luke's Episcopal Church     
in New Haven, Connecticut where she was married years earlier.