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Leo Branton, Jr.

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Information about Leo Branton, Jr.

Profile image of Leo Branton, Jr.

Profession

Category:
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Entertainment Lawyer
Litigator

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Gumbo, Seafood, Chitterlings
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Majorca, Spain
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
2/17/1922
Birth Location:
Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Profession

Category:
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Entertainment Lawyer
Litigator

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Gumbo, Seafood, Chitterlings
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Majorca, Spain
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
2/17/1922
Birth Location:
Pine Bluff
See how Leo Branton, Jr. is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Entertainment lawyer and litigator Leo Branton, Jr., was born on February 17, 1922 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Branton was the eldest of Leo Branton, Sr. and Pauline Wiley's five children. The importance of education was stressed in the Branton household, as his mother was a graduate of the Tuskegee Institute and all five children received college degrees.
After Branton graduated from Tennessee State University in 1942, he enrolled in the Army, serving in a segregated Army unit for almost three years during World War II. Upon completion of his service, Branton enrolled in Northwestern University Law School, receiving his J.D. degree in 1948.

Following graduation from law school, Branton moved to California. There were no integrated or African American law firms at the time that he established his own private practice. In 1950, he worked with the NAACP on the trial of an African American veteran charged in the double murder of a white couple in Riverside County, California. His work on this case and his subsequent challenge to the jury system in Riverside County led to the first black person serving on a jury in Riverside County.

Branton was well known both as a litigator and as an entertainment attorney. His first clients in the entertainment industry were Nat King Cole and Dorothy Dandridge. Branton represented Nat King Cole from 1958 until his death in 1965. He also represented other entertainers, including the Platters, Inger Stevens, and Dalton Trumbo.

Another important part of Branton's diverse career was his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Branton made several trips to the South during the 1960's, lending his legal skills and know how. He defended thirteen members of the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party against an unlawful attack by the Los Angeles Police Department. His most celebrated case, however, was the successful defense and acquittal of celebrated Civil Rights activist Angela Davis. Angela Davis' case lasted several months and in 1972, Davis was acquitted of all charges against her.

Branton practiced law for a total of 52 years. For his work, he received awards from the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Tribune, the California State Senate, and the NAACP Legal Education and Defense Fund.

Branton passed away on April 19, 2013 at age 91.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Leo Branton interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Leo Branton's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Leo Branton recalls his mother's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Leo Branton describes segregation in Pine Bluff, Arkansas
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Leo Branton explores his mixed ethnic heritage
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Leo Branton reflects on his early education
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Leo Branton remembers his frustration in childhood with racism in Pine Bluff, Arkansas
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Leo Branton describes his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Leo Branton explains the class stratification of African Americans in Pine Bluff
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Leo Branton discusses his father's finances
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Leo Branton states his parents' occupations
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Leo Branton recounts his educational background
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Leo Branton describes activities and aspirations in his youth
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Leo Branton recalls his home life as a child and his anger at the white supremacist status quo
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Leo Branton recalls life during the Great Depression
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Leo Branton details his scrape with the law, part 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Leo Branton details his scrape with the law, part 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Leo Branton recalls serving in World War II
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Leo Branton moves to Chicago and gets a defense industry job
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Leo Branton details his experience with racial discrimination in the armed forces
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Leo Branton shares his law school experiences at Northwestern University School of Law
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Leo Branton relates why he moved to California
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Leo Branton explains why he didn't go to medical school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Leo Branton recounts his early years of practicing law
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Leo Branton describes the selection of the first black juror in Riverside County, California
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Leo Branton recalls the 1950 trial with Riverside County, California's first black juror
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Leo Branton details his first case defending members of the Communist Party
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Leo Branton recounts the Yates trial and Supreme Court case of 'Yates v. United States'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Leo Branton remembers his work with the first integrated law firm in California
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Leo Branton explains why he wanted to represent black entertainers
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Leo Branton discusses the McCarthy Era Hollywood blacklist
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Leo Branton recalls his libel suits for Dorothy Dandridge
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Leo Branton remembers Dorothy Dandridge
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Leo Branton remembers Nat King Cole
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Leo Branton recounts his work with the Broadway production of 'The Amen Corner'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Leo Branton starts representing Nat King Cole
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Leo Branton and Nat King Cole arrange a benefit concert for civil rights organizations
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Leo Branton shares his proudest moment as a lawyer, getting Wesley Robert Wells out of jail
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Leo Branton explains his preference for litigation
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Leo Branton recalls his work with The Platters
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Leo Branton recounts his relationship with Ike Jones and Inger Stevens
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Leo Branton remembers Nat King Cole's dream of making it on Broadway
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Leo Branton recounts his relationships with Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Leo Branton discusses his position as Nat King Cole's lawyer
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Leo Branton reflects on his efforts to aid the Civil Rights Movement in the South
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Leo Branton illustrates trying a civil rights case in Arkansas
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Leo Branton describes his other civil rights work
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Leo Branton recalls his work with SNCC and "Bloody Monday" in Danville, Virginia
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Leo Branton details how he became involved in the Angela Davis trial
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Leo Branton recounts his work on the Angela Davis trial
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Leo Branton lists some of his other high profile cases
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Leo Branton illustrates his code of ethics as a lawyer
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Leo Branton discusses dealing with the FBI while trying Black Panther cases
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Leo Branton reflects on his career
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Leo Branton discusses choosing not to pass for white
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Leo Branton expresses his compassion for persecuted peoples and admiration of Fidel Castro's Cuba
  • Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Leo Branton shares his concerns for the legal community
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Leo Branton reflects on the progress of the black community
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Leo Branton shares his opinion of black representation in Hollywood
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Leo Branton hopes the black community can improve its economic standing
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Leo Branton lists the people he does or does not admire
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Leo Branton considers his legacy
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Photo - Leo Branton as a child, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, ca. 1926
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Photo - Leo Branton with the widow of his brother, Wiley Branton, Washington, D.C., 1992
  • Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Photo - Leo Branton with children
  • Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Photo - Leo Branton and Jack Tenner observing a civil rights speaker
  • Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Photo - Leo Branton's mother, Pauline Wiley Branton, ca. 1969
  • Tape: 8 Story: 11 - Photo - Leo Branton, ca. 1998
  • Tape: 8 Story: 12 - Photo - Leo Branton's parents, Leo Branton, Sr. and Pauline Wiley Branton at their home in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, ca. 1920
  • Tape: 8 Story: 13 - Photo - Leo Branton's vacation house in Rosarito, Mexico
  • Tape: 8 Story: 14 - Photo - Rosa Parks with the president of Soka University, Hachioji-city, Japan
  • Tape: 8 Story: 15 - Photo - Courtroom sketch of Leo Branton, Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 8 Story: 16 - Photo - Leo Branton's wife, Geraldine Pate Branton
  • Tape: 8 Story: 17 - Photo - Leo Branton and Geraldine Pate Branton upon his graduation from Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee, 1960