Demetrius Newton, a treasured LDF cooperating attorney in Alabama, died recently at the age of 85.
As as civil rights lawyer, he represented Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. as well as many others arrested during protests in Birmingham, Alabama.
He became the first African American to serve as speaker pro-tem of the Alabama House of Representatives, a position he held from 1998-2010.
He was first elected to the House in 1986 and became a strong voice for the powerless, which included advocating for a new Alabama constitution.
Demetrius served as co-counsel with LDF in major employment discrimination cases such as James v. Stockham Valves and Fittings, Terrell v. U.S. Pipe, Gambel v. Birmingham Railroad. All were tried in the Northern District of Alabama, appealed to the Fifth Circuit, and resulted in victories for African American employees leading to injunctive and monetary relief.
Elaine Jones, former LDF President & Director-Counsel, recalled her close association with Demetrius: “As a young lawyer at LDF, it was my good fortune to co-counsel with Demetrius Newton in several criminal trials, all of which involved defending young African American men. Demetrius had superb trial skills from selecting a jury to effective cross examination to powerful closing arguments. I learned a lot from him. And he did not mind openly and candidly teaching a young black woman all that he knew. He had no time for discrimination of any kind including that based on gender. I will always be grateful to this dynamic, effective lawyer. He was a good friend.”
LDF’s Leslie Proll, who tried Alabama’s higher education desegregation case with Demetrius, said “Demetrius was a masterful trial lawyer. And he knew more than most how to use civil rights litigation to advance the political interests of the African American community. We will miss him greatly.”