Briggs v. Elliot and the Best CLE I Have Ever Attended

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The South Carolina Supreme Court Historical Society conducted a Colloquium entitled “J. Waites Waring and the Dissent that Changed America” in Charleston on Thursday, May 19 and Friday, May 20, 2011. The Colloquium marked the 60th anniversary of the trial Briggs v. Elliot, South Carolina’s landmark school desegregation case arising out of Clarendon County that was consolidated on appeal with four other cases from around the country. The opinion issued by the Supreme Court of the United States in that consolidated appeal is known as Brown v. Board of Education.

The event kicked off Thursday night with a dinner at which Professor Charles Ogletree of the Harvard Law School delivered a wonderful speech concerning Briggs and the events leading up to the trial of the case. I had the privilege of sitting next to Judge Matthew Perry and listened to him tell stories of attending the trial at the Federal Courthouse in Charleston. Judge Perry, along with hundreds of other interested onlookers, packed into the relatively small court room to watch Thurgood Marshall present ground breaking evidence. This trial was the very first time Professor Kenneth Clark took the stand and gave expert testimony based in his tests using dolls to identify psychological harm to school children. I will remember forever Judge Perry’s stories about the trial and count it a wonderful blessing that I got to hear them first-hand.

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