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"The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is simply the best civil rights law firm in American history." -- President Obama

Remembering John Payton

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3/24/14

John Payton In Memoriam

Below, Sherrilyn Ifill offers remarks on the second anniversary of the passing of John Payton, LDF's late President and Director-Counsel.

March 22nd will be a difficult day for LDF for some years to come. Two years ago, LDF's President and 6th Director-Counsel John Payton passed away at the age of 65.  John's brilliance, meticulous preparation, and fearless advocacy inspired a generation of young lawyers at the Corporation Counsel's office in D.C.; at the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler where he was a partner; and finally at LDF, where he spent the last years of his professional life.  For LDF, John's loss was a terrible blow.

We are gratified that we are almost ready to announce a fellowship bearing John's name that will create a great opportunity for a young attorney to engage in the legal work that most excited John during his time at LDF. Through this fellowship we will continue to advance John's commitment to mentoring, and to excellence in appellate advocacy.  You'll be hearing more about this exciting fellowship in the coming days.

John's body of work and contributions to the profession are plentiful -- that makes it difficult to select something that is representative of his work.  But I encourage everyone who knew John and those who did not, to listen again to John's oral argument in the affirmative action case from 2003, Gratz v. University of Michigan case.  John was brilliant.  He even got Justice Thomas to speak!  Here's the link to the argument. 

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that March 22nd is also difficult for the LDF family, because a year ago, we lost LDF's iconic former Associate Director Counsel James Nabrit, III.  Jim worked at LDF from 1959 to 1989 and made extraordinary contributions to our work.  He was the son of James Nabrit, Jr. who litigated and argued in Brown v. Board of Education. Because of Jim's civil rights lineage, Ted Shaw, LDF's 4th Director-Counsel describes Jim Nabrit as "civil rights royalty."  Yet anyone who met Jim knew him as a kind, generous and wonderful human being with a brilliant legal mind.  Learn more about James Nabrit here.

Please join me and the LDF family in remembering John Payton this week, and in remembering Jim Nabrit, III.