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The History of LDF and the Voting Rights March of 1965


LDF played a pivotal role in ensuring the marchers were able to proceed to Montgomery as planned. LDF and cooperating attorneys Fred Gray, Solomon Seay, Jr., Oscar Adams, Jr., and Demetrius Newton filed a lawsuit against then Alabama Governor George Wallace in a case known as Williams v. Wallace.  
In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson ordered federal protection for a later march attempt. 
LDF lawyers Jack Greenberg, Norman Amaker, Charles H. Jones, and James Nabrit were subsequently involved in drawing up a safe and secure route from Selma to Montgomery.
On March 16, 1965, LDF attorneys Jack Greenberg, Norman Amaker, Charles H. Jones, and James Nabrit, along with cooperating law firm Gray & Seay of Alabama, filed a proposed plan for the march to Montgomery on behalf of plaintiffs Hosea Williams, Peter Hall, and John Lewis.  

The march will be orderly and peaceful and otherwise observe the highest standards of dignity and decorum.

LDF's proposed plan filed on behalf of marchers
In the plan, they detailed each day of the 5-day march, including the route (starting at Brown’s Chapel AME Church in Selma and ending at the capitol in Montgomery), services to be provided (food, facilities, litter pick up, first aid service, return transportation for marchers, and lines of communication), and expected behavior (including when songs could be sung). 
The plan, which was ultimately embodied in the court’s order, also stated the plaintiffs’ intention to organize a 20-person meeting with the Governor once the marchers arrived in Montgomery.
The order in favor of the plaintiffs’ motion that the court issued after hearing allowed the march to continue after the police violent and terror prematurely ended the marchers’ first attempt.  Six months later, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed in direct response to the activism and national awareness-raising surrounding “Bloody Sunday” and the Selma to Montgomery march.  LDF is proud to have played such a direct role in this struggle for voting rights and to continue to defend against modern day voter suppression.


LDF lawyers represented him throughout his years of leadership—during the 1963 Birmingham campaign, in Selma in 1965, and in many other places in the South. As Jack Greenberg, who succeeded LDF’s founder, Thurgood Marshall as our President and Director-Counsel noted in his acclaimed memoir, Crusaders in the Courts:

“When a great leader of the mass movement emerged, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., LDF was his lawyer.”

Jack Greenberg, LDF Director-Counsel, 1961-1984