WILLIAM HENRY HASTIE Biography - Polititians


Biography » polititians » william henry hastie


Name: William H. Hastie                                                                 
Born: 17 november 1904                                                                 
Died: 14 April 1976                                                                     
Dr. William H. Hastie (November 17, 1904-April 14, 1976) was both the first             
African American Governor of the United States Virgin Islands and the first             
African American judge on a Federal appeals court. He was considered by some as         
a pioneer of the civil rights movement in the United States.                           
Hastie was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. He graduated first in his class, magna         
cum laude from Amherst College in Massachusetts before attending Harvard Law           
School, eventually receiving a doctorate in juridical studies. He subsequently         
moved to Washington, D.C. and worked as a law professor at Howard University,           
where one of his students was future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall. He       
also accepted an appointment as an assistant solicitor for the Department of the       
Interior, advising the agency on racial issues.                                         
In 1937, he was appointed to the United States District Court for the Virgin           
Islands and served as a judge of that court for two years. Hastie was the first         
African-American to serve on a Federal court. Senator William H. King of Utah,         
the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee called his appointment a "blunder."     
In 1939, he resigned from the court to become the Dean of the Howard University         
Law School, where he had previously taught.                                             
During World War II, Hastie worked as a civilian aide to the Secretary of War           
Henry Stimson where he vigorously defended the use and equality of African             
American troops in the war effort. In 1943, after working for Stimson for three         
years, he resigned his position in protest due to the use of segregated training       
facilities for Army Air Force, inadequate training for African American pilots,         
and the unequal distribution of jobs between whites and non-whites. For this, he       
was given the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP. Like many Spingarn Medal honorees,         
Hastie is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.                                   
This was expected to be the end of his government career, but he instead was           
appointed to be the first African American Governor of the United States Virgin         
Islands, a position he held from 1946 to 1949. After a successful period as             
Governor, he was appointed as the first African-American to a Federal appeals           
court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In 1968, he           
became Chief Judge of the court. After only three years, he "retired" as chief         
judge, but remained on the court as a senior judge.                                     
President John F. Kennedy considered appointing Hastie to the Supreme Court of         
the United States, but political calculations prevented Kennedy from making the         
appointment in 1962. On the one hand, an African-American appointee would have         
faced congressional opposition, such as that of the segregationist Chairman of         
the Senate Judiciary Committee, James Eastland; on the other hand, Chief Justice       
Earl Warren also reportedly opined that Hastie would be too conservative as a           
justice. However, Kennedy remarked that he would have several more appointments         
in his presidency and he intended to appoint Hastie to the Court.                       
Hastie died while playing golf in 1976.