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David Chaumette

Lawyer David A. Chaumette was born in London, England in 1968, and grew up in Sugar Land, Texas. He received his B.S.E. degree, cum laude, from Princeton University, his M.S. degree in aeronautics/astronautics from Stanford University, and his J.D. degree from the University of Chicago Law School.

In 1994, Chaumette was hired as an associate at the law firm of Mayor, Day, Caldwell & Keeton. From 1998 to 2002, he worked for the Houston, Texas law firm of Porter & Hedges LLP. From 2002 until 2011, Chaumette served as a partner at the law firms of Shook Hardy & Bacon, Baker & McKenzie, and De la Rosa & Chaumette. In December of 2011, he founded the Sugar Land based law firm, Chaumette PLLC, which specializes in business litigation. In 2013, Chaumette was named the first African American president of the Houston Bar Association (HBA).

Chaumette was president of the Houston Young Lawyers Association from 2003 to 2004, and has served on the boards of directors and executive committees for the Houston Bar Association and Neighborhood Centers, Inc. He has also been the president or chair of several other organizations, including Leadership Houston, the Houston Lawyers Foundation, and First Colony Little League. His professional memberships include the National Bar Association, the Houston Lawyer Association, the College of the State Bar of Texas and the Pro Bono College of the State Bar of Texas. In addition, Chaumette is a fellow of the American Law Institute and the Litigation Counsel of America, and has written numerous articles that have been published in magazines and scholarly journals.

In 2004, Chaumette was named as one of the Five Outstanding Young Houstonians by the Houston Junior Chamber of Commerce and one of the Five Outstanding Young Texans by the Texas Junior Chamber of Commerce. He was named to the Visitors Committee of the South Texas College of Law in Houston in 2005, and was named one of the 500 New Stars by Lawdragon.com in 2006. In 2009, Chaumette was recognized as an Extraordinary Minority in Texas Law by Texas Lawyer Magazine. In 2011, he received the Standing Ovation award from the Texas Bar for his service to TexasBarCLE. Chaumette has also been named “Texas Rising Star” and a "Super Lawyer" by Law & Politics Magazine for several consecutive years.

Chaumette lives in Sugar Land, and has two sons, Raphael and Alexandre.

David Chaumette was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 3, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.067

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/3/2014

Last Name

Chaumette

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Anthony

Occupation
Schools

Clements High School

Torrance High School

Princeton University

Stanford University

University of Chicago

First Name

David

Birth City, State, Country

London

HM ID

CHA12

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

4/9/1968

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Houston

Country

England

Short Description

Litigator David Chaumette (1968 - ) , founder and partner of the law firm Chaumette PLLC, was named the first African American president of the Houston Bar Association in 2013.

Employment

Mayor, Day, Caldwell & Keeton

Porter & Hedges LLP

Shook Hardy & Bacon

Baker & McKenzie

De la Rosa & Chaumette

Chaumette PLLC

A. Scott Bolden

Lawyer and law partner, A. Scott Bolden was born Alan Scott Bolden on June 8, 1962 in Joliet, Illinois. Growing up watching his father try criminal and civil rights cases, he acquired exceptional oratorical skills, and knew that he would grow up to be a lawyer. In 1984, Bolden graduated cum laude from Morehouse College, where he received his B.A. degree in political science. Three years later, 1987, Bolden received his J.D. degree from the Howard University School of Law. While at Howard, Bolden was an active contributor to the Howard Law Journal, received a number of awards and scholarships and participated in the National Moot Court Team and Board of Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity.

After graduating, Bolden would work as a law clerk for Judge Luke Moore of the District of Columbia Superior Court, a lead counsel in numerous trials for the New York County District Attorney’s Office, and eventually become office managing partner of Reed Smith’s Washington, D.C. office. Aside from successfully representing many developers and building owners in major real estate tax appeal litigations as a civil/commercial litigator, Bolden has had numerous accomplishments as a criminal defense litigator including representing numerous Clinton presidential appointees as witnesses in congressional and federal investigations. Bolden has been affiliated with the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, Economic Club of Washington, D.C., Individual Development Corporation and the Democratic National Committee. Aside from acting as a practicing attorney, Bolden has appeared on CNN’s Both Sides, ABC’s 20/20, hosted WAMU, WTOP and WOL radio programs and served as co-host on “Building Bridges for Business.”

Bolden lives in Washington, D.C, and has three daughters and one granddaughter.

Bolden was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 25, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.093

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/25/2008 |and| 9/10/2012

Last Name

Bolden

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Morehouse College

Providence Catholic High School

Howard University School of Law

Sacred Heart Catholic Elementary School

First Name

A. Scott

Birth City, State, Country

Joliet

HM ID

BOL02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Rio De Janeiro

Favorite Quote

Be Excellent At All Times, Somebody's Always Watching. Make Sure You Have A Plan B, C And D, Because Plan A Never Works.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

6/8/1962

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Catfish

Short Description

Litigator A. Scott Bolden (1962 - ) was office managing partner of the law firm, Reed Smith, in Washington, D.C. He also represented numerous Clinton presidential appointees as witnesses in congressional and federal investigations.

Employment

New York District Attorney's Office

Reed Smith LLP

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of A. Scott Bolden's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - A. Scott Bolden lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his maternal family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his maternal family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - A. Scott Bolden talks about colorism and passing in Newton, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his family's southern traditions

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - A. Scott Bolden describes his mother's childhood in Newton, Mississippi and Joliet, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - A. Scott Bolden describes his parents' careers

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - A. Scott Bolden describes his paternal family background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - A. Scott Bolden remembers his father

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - A. Scott Bolden considers which parent he takes after most and talks about their involvement in community activism and civil rights

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - A. Scott Bolden remembers when his sister knocked out his front tooth

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - A. Scott Bolden describes his relationship to his younger brother

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - A. Scott Bolden remembers watching his father collect lawyer fees on the weekends, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - A. Scott Bolden remembers watching his father collect lawyer fees on the weekends, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - A. Scott Bolden remembers the Joliet YMCA

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - A. Scott Bolden talks about gang activity in Joliet, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - A. Scott Bolden describes his grade school years in Joliet, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - A. Scott Bolden remembers being bullied in grade school

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - A. Scott Bolden describes experiencing racial discrimination at Providence High School in New Lenox, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - A. Scott Bolden describes experiencing racial discrimination at Providence High School in New Lenox, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - A. Scott Bolden remembers learning about African American history at home

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - A. Scott Bolden talks about race riots in Joliet, Illinois after the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - A. Scott Bolden considers how his background has influenced his career

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - A. Scott Bolden describes the influence of the nuns at Sacred Heart School in Joliet, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his experience at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his athletic activities and social life at Providence High School in New Lenox, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - A. Scott Bolden explains why he chose to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - A. Scott Bolden describes pledging Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - A. Scott Bolden describes pledging Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - A. Scott Bolden describes working for the Congressional Black Caucus and meeting Dr. Benjamin Mays and HistoryMaker Parren Mitchell as a college student

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his political involvement as a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - A. Scott Bolden remembers influential figures at Morehouse College and HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse L. Jackson's announcement of his presidential candidacy

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - A. Scott Bolden remembers an experience with Dr. Benjamin Mays

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his decision to attend Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - A. Scott Bolden talks about HistoryMaker H. Patrick Swygert, president of Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his first year at Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. and about his father's influence on his career

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Second slating of A. Scott Bolden's interview

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - A. Scott Bolden explains what a case note is

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his case note in the Howard Law Journal on the 1985 'Tennessee v. Garner,' decision

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - A. Scott Bolden talks about the Howard University Law school legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - A. Scott Bolden describes his experience on Howard University School of Law national moot court team

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his mentor, Judge Luke C. Moore, and his decision to work at the New York County District Attorney's Office

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - A. Scott Bolden describes his experience in the New York County District Attorney's Office under Robert Morgenthau

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - A. Scott Bolden talks about the 1987 Tawana Brawley allegations

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - A. Scott Bolden talks about the 1989 Central Park "wilding" case

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - A. Scott Bolden describes a high profile court case

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - A. Scott Bolden talks about the summation of his work in the New York County District Attorney's Office

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his relationship with HistoryMaker Wilhelmina Rolark and joining the Reed Smith law firm in 1991

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - A. Scott Bolden describes working at the Reed Smith LLP, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - A. Scott Bolden describes working at Reed Smith LLP, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - A. Scott Bolden talks about representing the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - A. Scott Bolden talks about defending a Washington D.C. columnist in a media libel case

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - A. Scott Bolden talks about representing members of the Clinton Administration before congressional investigation, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - A. Scott Bolden talks about representing members of the Clinton Administration before congressional investigation, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his defense of NFL player Albert Haynesworth

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - A. Scott Bolden talks about representing Carlos Allen, who allegedly crashed a White House state dinner in 2009, pt.1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - A. Scott Bolden talks about representing Carlos Allen, who allegedly crashed a White House state dinner in 2009, pt.2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his defense of Diane Gustus against charges of embezzlement in a 2008 Washington D.C. tax theft scandal

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his civic contributions to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - A. Scott Bolden talks about the attempted shutdown of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, pt.1

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - A. Scott Bolden talks about the attempted shutdown of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, pt.2

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - A. Scott Bolden remembers meeting HistoryMaker Dorothy Height

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - A. Scott Bolden talks about Adrian Fenty's lost re-election

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - A. Scott Bolden describes his philosophy for good litigating

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - A. Scott Bolden describes his responsibilities as managing partner at Reed Smith LLP

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - A. Scott Bolden talks being named Washington's Ubiquitous Power Lawyer and the Washington Business Journal's Lawyer of the Year

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - A. Scott Bolden describes his greatest disappointment

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - A. Scott Bolden talks about meeting his daughter, Shayla

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - A. Scott Bolden talks about his first marriage

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - A. Scott Bolden talks about The Family, a black professional organization

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - A. Scott Bolden reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - A. Scott Bolden considers what his parents think of his success

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - A. Scott Bolden describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - A. Scott Bolden shares his advice for aspiring lawyers

DASession

2$2

DATape

6$7

DAStory

3$3

DATitle
A. Scott Bolden describes working at the Reed Smith LLP, pt. 1
A. Scott Bolden talks about his civic contributions to Washington, D.C.
Transcript
But I was excited about it, you know, I hadn't written a lot in the last three years so I was concerned about that. You know there weren't a lot of people at Reed Smith--there weren't a lot of black lawyers at Reed Smith at the time. I was concerned about that, but more importantly I really thought Reed Smith was going to a way station. I'd work for two or three years, make a lot of money and then go do something else, with either the government or a smaller firm or run for office or something like that, because I didn't have a lot of confidence in, in having a long-term career with Reed Smith because I didn't have many examples. And you know Weldon Latham was here, [HM] Singleton McAllister was here and they recruited me, they helped train me but they trained me to develop business, quite frankly. The litigation skill-set was there, folks like Doug Spaulding and Bernie Casey honed my litigation skills when I first got here as an associate 'cause I had never done anything on the civil side, and it was like walking into a new world but the skills were transferrable and so I was grateful to all of them for working with me, but I started getting good reviews. I took a writing class when I first got here, no one ever knew that, but I did because it would take me twice as long to write a great brief or great motion, it would take me twice as longer than my colleagues and you could only bill for so much so I used to always ask the partners, "how long should this take?" and they would say, "Eight hours or ten hours." It would take me twice as long and so I always figured that they didn't--either, I was taking too long to write or, you know, they just didn't want me to bill more than eight to ten hours, but, be that as it may, it was, it was tough going the first year or two, but I got great reviews, I was well thought of, and then I realized I had a skill-set and that I could, I could sell that skill-set to the public companies to high-end individuals. I thought that was important because there were 77,000 lawyers in Washington, D.C. How I am gonna have a legal career, how are they gonna pick up the phone, I know I don't wanna work for anybody at Reed Smith vis-a-vis be tied to a partner that just feeds me work because that can be fleeting, quite frankly, and I wanted to stand on my own. I wanted--I decided I wanted to have a law practice at a big law firm and so I wanted to develop business. I wanted to make it rain if you will. We call it rainmaking. I knew that as an associate you know that was kind of difficult but you know you start baby steps and then you take larger steps and stuff, and so, I really focused after a year or two on trying to develop a book of business that would keep me either here or I could take wherever I went in the large law firm practice because I really liked working at a large law firm. I had a lot of freedom, you made good money, you worked on some interesting cases, you had some high profile cases, you would represent large corporations, you could do pro bono, I could you know do kind of the civil rights piece of what I loved to do, and, and so it gave me a lot of freedom and liberty to really operate on a broad legal space and that was important, you know, and it kept me busy so I had, you know, I could, I could chase business or try to develop a book of business. I was doing substantive legal work for some great clients and some great partners and then I was so I had my pro bono stuff was over here where I was working with the civil rights organizations on pro bono cases and so, you know, my name recognition began to grow because on the pro bono side I would represent elected officials or their such as [HM] Marion Barry or [HM] Sharon Pratt Kelly and their, their political actions committees that were under scrutiny at the time by the government. We had a lot of resources to bring to the table and so I started to represent folks like that, one, because they were high-profile, two, because I thought I we could help them, and three, it would broaden my name recognition. We would have meetings here at Reed Smith, we you know we, we, you know, anything that was gonna broaden my exposure as a young lawyer, I was willing to do because I figured that if I, if they knew who I was then they might call, but if no one knew who I was nobody's gonna call, quite frankly--$Okay, all right, all right. I know you're active in a lot of civic activities here in the District [of Columbia, Washington, D.C.] can you tell us about some of those?$$Well, you know, my, you know the, the, the most active organizations I'm involved in the District are the Recreation Wish List Committee and the [D.C.] Chamber of Commerce. The Recreation Wish List Committee I chaired when we built a $10 or $15 million dollar facility in Southeast Washington [D.C.] for the kids and families of Southeast Washington to, excuse me, play tennis, compete in tennis, learn tennis, and to be tutored and to have educational programs for young people who and their families, who historically have been denied access to just either of those, quite frankly. The founder is [HM] Cora Masters Barry, former first lady and wife of [HM] Marion Barry. She is just an incredible person and visionary and continues to run the center through the Recreation Wish List Committee. The name of the, the building is the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center. She built it through a private partnership. I was chair of the board when we built it and then we gave it to the District of Columbia and we continued to manage, operate it and to be a friend to the [Southeast Tennis and Learning] Center with all that is inside that space and just really--earlier this year they named the activity room this large activity room called the Round Room at the Center. They named it the Bolden Room, if you will, in honor of my contributions over the years and, and in honor of my leadership and my representation of the Recreation Wish List Committee that the prior mayoral administration, the prior mayor [Adrian Fenty] of this city, attempted to evict them for some unknown reason.

Theodore V. Wells, Jr.

Attorney Theodore V. Wells, Jr. has made a mark on the legal world as one of the most sought-after white collar criminal lawyers. Ted Wells was born Theodore Von Wells, Jr. on April 28, 1950 in Washington, D.C. to Phyllis and Theodore V. Wells, Sr., and grew up in a small rowhouse in Northwest, Washington, D.C. Wells was raised by his mother, who worked in the U.S. Navy’s mailroom. Wells became known for his academic focus, and by the time he attended Calvin Coolidge High School was known for his grades as well as his prowess on the football field.

In 1968, Wells graduated from Calvin Coolidge High School and attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. While attending Holy Cross, Wells was mentored by Reverend John E. Brooks and Edward Bennett Williams and became head of the black student union. One classmate, also a member of the union, was current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, with whom Wells participated in a walkout because of the school’s racially motivated unfair practices. In 1971, Wells married his high school girlfriend, Nina Mitchell, in Washington, D.C. The following year, he returned to school and received his B.A. degree.

After graduation, Wells attended Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School simultaneously, receiving both his J.D. and M.B.A. degrees in 1976. Wells was one of only forty-three black students then enrolled in Harvard Law School. He then worked as a law clerk for Judge John J. Gibbons, a Third Circuit judge, where he worked alongside another current Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Alito. The following year, after a very brief clerkship at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker in Los Angeles, Wells joined the Lowenstein Sandler law firm in New Jersey and worked doing pro bono criminal defense work under mentor Matthew Boylan. There, he would hone his trial room technique.

In 1982, Wells became partner at Lowenstein Sandler. The following year, he won his case for Hudson County Prosecutor Harold Ruvoldt, then on trial for bribery and extortion and in 1987 successfully defended Raymond Donovan, the U.S. Secretary of Labor, his first high profile case. In 1993, Wells was elected Fellow for the American College of Trial Lawyers, and, in 1994, he was chosen as one of the most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal, a title he earned again in 1997 and 2000.

In 1998, Wells won a case for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Michael Espy in U.S. v. Espy, and the following year, Wells effectively defended Franklin L. Haney, a Tennessee financier who had become involved in a campaign finance controversy for the 1996 presidential elections. In 2000, Wells became Bill Bradley’s National Campaign Treasurer during his unsuccessful presidential run. That year, he also joined Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, becoming partner and litigation department co-chair. Since then, Wells has defended a number of major corporations in a variety of cases, and his clients have included Johnson & Johnson, Mitsubishi Corporation, Philip Morris, ExxonMobil and the Carnival Corporation, as well as the first RICO case on Wall Street. Most recently, Wells defended Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff “Scooter” Libby in the Valerie Plame CIA leak scandal.

Wells was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 15, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.175

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/15/2007 |and| 6/7/2007 |and| 7/25/2007

Last Name

Wells

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Calvin Coolidge Senior High School

Rudolph Elementary School

Keene Elementary School

Paul Public Charter School

College of the Holy Cross

Harvard Law School

Harvard Business School

First Name

Theodore

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

WEL02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Boy, Boy, Boy.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

4/28/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

French Fries

Short Description

Litigator Theodore V. Wells, Jr. (1950 - ) was partner and litigation department co-chair at the law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Employment

National Park Service

Pricewaterhousecooper (PwC)

Arnold and Palmer

Alston, Miller and Gaines

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Lowenstein Sandler LLP

Seton Hall University School of Law

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

Favorite Color

Aqua Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Theodore V. Wells, Jr.'s interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the Northwest neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his early pastimes

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his early interest in literature

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his best friend from childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his relationship with his mother

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his father's shooting

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his father's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his early interests

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes segregation in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the Civil Rights Movement in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his civil rights activities

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about the severity of segregation in the South

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the influence of his best friend's father

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers Kent B. Amos and A. Barry Rand

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers successful individuals from his neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his high school football career

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his college recruitment as a football player

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls his decision to attend College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about the athletic recruitment process

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his athletic scholarship offers

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls his arrival at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his first semester at the College of the Holy Cross

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes the political climate at the College of the Holy Cross

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers dating his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his African American peers at the College of the Holy Cross'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers Clarence Thomas

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his decision to quit the football team

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes the platform of his Black Student Union

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes Clarence Thomas' involvement with the Black Student Union

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes the protest movements of the early 1970s

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his academic interest in economics

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his employment during college

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. narrates his photographs

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Slating of Theodore V. Wells, Jr.'s interview, session 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the walkout at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the walkout at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers the aftermath of the walkout at the College of the Holy Cross

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his sophomore year at College of the Holy Cross

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers John E. Brooks

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon the success of his peers from the College of the Holy Cross

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his decision to pursue a graduate degree

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his law school applications

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his wedding and honeymoon

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls moving to Somerville, Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his enrollment at the Harvard Law School

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes the J.D./M.B.A. degree program at Harvard University

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his first year at the Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his classmates at the Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls his professors at the Harvard Law School

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his work on the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the African American faculty of the Harvard Law School

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his summer internships while at the Harvard Law School

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about the integration of corporate law firms

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his judicial clerkship

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls obtaining a clerkship under Judge John Joseph Gibbons

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes Judge John Joseph Gibbons' former law clerks

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his clerkship under Judge John Joseph Gibbons

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the state of minorities in the courts in the 1970s

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his duties as a judicial clerk

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon his clerkship at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers Raymond A. Brown

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his decision to join Lowenstein Sandler LLP, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his decision to join Lowenstein Sandler LLP, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls working on a Soviet Union espionage case

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his casework at Lowenstein Sandler LLP

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers defending Al Dickens

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls his position under Matthew P. Boylan at Lowenstein Sandler LLP

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers defending Harold J. Ruvoldt, Jr., pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers defending Harold J. Ruvoldt, Jr., pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls defending Raymond J. Donovan

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his political involvement in New Jersey

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers the U.S. Senate campaigns in New Jersey

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers meeting Bill Bradley

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls Bill Bradley's presidential campaign

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his professional aspirations

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon his decision to turn down judicial appointments

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers Judge Herbert Jay Stern

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his political activities in New Jersey

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers becoming a partner at Lowenstein Sandler LLP

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his compensation as a trial lawyer

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his relationship with Bill Bradley

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his roles in the Democratic Party

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls being offered a position as a U.S. attorney

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes how he came to represent Mike Espy

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers the case of United States v. Espy

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his defense strategy for the case of United States v. Espy

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his federal casework

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his defense of Calvin Grigsby

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes the chronology of his federal casework

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the case of United States v. Lauersen

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his decision to join Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP, pt. 1

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the mentorship of Arthur L. Liman and Edward Bennett Williams

Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his decision to join Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP, pt. 2

Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about his preference to work solo

Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the case of United States v. Flake

Tape: 13 Story: 8 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about the importance of research for trial lawyers

Tape: 14 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. remembers his defense of Merck and Co., Inc.

Tape: 14 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes the process of deferred prosecution

Tape: 14 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about the case of Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States

Tape: 14 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon his legal casework

Tape: 14 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about the case of United States v. Libby

Tape: 14 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon his most influential legal casework

Tape: 14 Story: 7 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon his life

Tape: 15 Story: 1 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon his political ideologies, pt. 1

Tape: 15 Story: 2 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes the role of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Tape: 15 Story: 3 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. reflects upon his political ideologies, pt. 2

Tape: 15 Story: 4 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. talks about the role of African Americans in politics

Tape: 15 Story: 5 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 15 Story: 6 - Theodore V. Wells, Jr. describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

2$2

DATape

6$9

DAStory

4$7

DATitle
Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls the walkout at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, pt. 2
Theodore V. Wells, Jr. recalls working on a Soviet Union espionage case
Transcript
And we held a meeting that night after the decision was rendered that the students would be expelled, held a meeting of the black student's union [Black Student Union]. And I was the vice president of the BSU at that juncture. And there were a lot of discussions about what we should do, including whether we should take over an administration--over the administration building. And someone, I don't--do not recall whose idea it was, someone at some point in the meeting stood up and said, "You know what? This is so wrong, so fundamentally wrong and speaks so loudly about the college's attitude towards black students and towards issues of fairness. We should just leave. We should quit school and just leave and start over somewhere else." And it was an idea that just caught on like wildfire. It just went through the room, and suddenly you had in this room of forty or fifty people, people said, "You know what? We don't need to take over any administration building, occupy anybody's property, engage in trespassing. I mean the best way to send the message as to how we feel is just to leave and we'll find another college." And we took a vote, and we decided we were gonna--we were all gonna quit school the next day. And I informed the college president who was Father Swords [Raymond J. Swords] that night that the black students had decided to resign. And Father Swords, I'll never forget, looked at me in a fairly cold fashion, and he said, "Well, that's your right, but we're not changing our mind." And I said, fine. So I went back to the, what was called the black corridor. Most of the black students lived in the third and fourth floor of the Healy dormitory [Healy Hall]. And I went back and everybody came out into the halls, and I advised them that I had met with Father Brooks [John E. Brooks], and that he basically said, if you're gonna resign, resign. And we went on--I remember I went on the college radio station that night and announced that at ten o'clock tomorrow morning, each and every black student at Holy Cross [College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts] would be leaving school, and we would have a press conference at ten that morning. And we spent the night calling our parents, and it was one of the most traumatic nights of my entire life because as one of the leaders, I not only had to tell my mother [Phyllis Wells] I was quitting school, where I had a full scholarship, but I had to get on the telephone with the parents of some of the other students, who wanted to understand what was going on. And I was, at that time, nineteen years old and being put in a spot of trying to explain to a number of parents why their young sons--it was an all-male school at that time--why their young sons were giving up their scholarship because almost all of us were on some type of financial aid or, or scholarship.$I started at Lowenstein [Lowenstein, Sandler, Brochin, Kohl, Fisher and Boylan; Lowenstein Sandler LLP], and about two months later--well, I started, I was in the slash litigation corporate department, cause I still am confused, whether I'm gonna be a litigator or corporate lawyer. And I'm still trying to feel my way, but I've been there about sixty days, and the--two Soviet spies were arrested, charged with espionage, a guy named Enger [Valdik Enger] and a guy Chernyayev [Rudolph Chernyayev], and Matt [Matthew P. Boylan] was retained by the Soviet Union [Russia] to represent Chennai. And Matt said, "Okay, this is what I hired you for." He said, "Come on, you're gonna be my main associate on this case." And it was a huge national case. It was a show trial. It was right after Watergate. I guess, probably Webster [William H. Webster] had become head of the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation], and they were trying to increase the prestige of the FBI. And they made a--a very conscious decision was made to have, what I'll call a show trial. And there were fascinating legal issues, diplomatic immunity because there was a wiretap. It was this big sting operation, and I'm only a few months out of my clerkship [with John J. Gibbons], and I'm in one of the biggest cases in the country, huge espionage case. And as life would have it, Sam Alito [Samuel Alito], who was co-clerk with me, Sam had gone to the U.S. attorney's office and Bob Del Tufo [Robert Del Tufo] was the U.S. attorney then, and he grabbed Sam. He said, "Well, come on, you're gonna be on the spy case with me." So Sam and I are truly ninety days, you know, four months, something like that out of our clerkships, and we're now going against each other in this huge espionage case. And it was a sting, so nothing really got stolen. The alleged thing was whether they were stealing secrets with respect to the Trident [missile] submarine system. But it was, it was a fascinating representation. I mean we truly were retained by the Soviet Union. Both of these, both of the defendants were employees of the Soviet mission [Consulate General of Russia in New York City] in New York [New York], and Enger, who was the equivalent of a colonel in the KGB, he was presented by a guy named Marty Popper [Martin Popper] and Don Ruby [Donald N. Ruby], and Popper, the way he got connected with the Soviets was he had been an assistant prosecutor during the Nuremberg trials. And he worked on Justice Roberts' [ph.] staff. And he worked with, I guess, the Soviet prosecutors during the Nuremburg trial, and when he set up his practice, he started representing the Soviet mission. So he was a natural choice to represent Enger and Matt, Matt had no connections or anything to do with the Soviet Union. But Matt was just viewed as one of the top trial lawyers. And they asked Matt would he come in and represent Chernyayev, who was like a sergeant in the KGB. And we did so, but then Matt had a terrible falling out 'cause they--the Soviets were always concerned that Matt--that Chernyayev might defect. And they didn't trust us either 'cause we--they had no connections with us. So we never got to talk to our client by himself, you know, in an entire eighteen months of representing him. There was always a senior diplomatic official, I assume, another KGB guy. But they never let him out of their sight. And we went to trial in front of--Fred Lacey [Frederick Bernard Lacey] was the federal district court judge. And that was my, that was my first big case. And we picked that jury in two days, but we impaneled the jury like three o'clock in the morning. And Lacey told them finally at three in the morning that they were gonna be sequestered. And it was, it was a fascinating case. They were, they were convicted, never did a day in prison. Lacey gave them both thirty years, but they were swapped for maybe three or four Soviet dissidents. And I remember Sam and I, we had written the--the conviction had taken place. They were out on bail pending appeal. And I remember Popper called me one day and said, "Well, we just cut the deal with the White House, but you have to go to Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] in the morning," meaning me, "to withdraw the appeal." And I remember--and he said, "Come to New York right away." And I was a little suspicious of, of Marty--I mean he's dead now. I thought Marty might swap me, if it would help (laughter). And I told everybody, I said, "I'm going over to Marty. If I don't show up or something," (laughter), "this is where I am." And I went to the Third Circuit [U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit] the next morning, and I signed a bunch of papers with ribbons on them, and then they did the swap at a--somewhere, maybe at some airport around D.C. [Washington, D.C.]. That afternoon, went on national TV. So they never did any time. Then we were actually supposed to go to the Soviet Olympics [1980 Summer Olympics, Moscow, Russia], and then, but then Carter [President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.] boycotted the Olympics. So we were, we were invited to go to the Olympics as their guests, but we never, never went 'cause the, because the U.S. boycotted the Olympics. But that's how I started doing criminal law. I mean, it, it--with the Soviet spy case.

Leo Branton, Jr.

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.

Accession Number

A2001.004

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

7/27/2001

Last Name

Branton

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law

Tennessee State University

Archival Photo 2
First Name

Leo

Birth City, State, Country

Pine Bluff

HM ID

BRA01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Arkansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Majorca, Spain

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

2/17/1922

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Gumbo, Seafood, Chitterlings

Death Date

4/19/2013

Short Description

Entertainment lawyer and litigator Leo Branton, Jr. (1922 - 2013 ) established a private legal practice when no integrated or African American law firms existed and represented prominent African Americans including Nat King Cole, Dorothy Dandridge and civil rights activist Angela Davis.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

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

DASession

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DATitle
Leo Branton recounts his early years of practicing law
Leo Branton shares his proudest moment as a lawyer, getting Wesley Robert Wells out of jail
Transcript
I took the bar review exam. And when the man announced the results, he stated "Larry Sperber made the highest grade in the class." And everybody applauded and Larry stood up. We had so many people in there. There were people on the first floor. This was in a theater. There were people sitting in the balcony and everything. And then a few minutes later he said, "Hey just a minute. I'm sorry Mr. Sperber I made a mistake." He said, "Leo Branton made the highest grade in the class." And then the people applauded for me. Now interestingly enough I went to an affair about a month ago for Walter Gordon Jr. who is the oldest practicing lawyer here in Los Angeles [California]. He's 93 years old and he's practiced for over sixty-some years. He is the first lawyer that I did some work for making appearances for him after I got my license. And I was sitting at a table at this affair and a fellow introduced himself to me. And he says, "Mr. Branton? I remember you took Forrest Kuhl's bar review course. And I remember that you made the highest grade in the class." I said, "How in the world could you remember that?" He says, "I just do. I remember his making that announcement." And that's the first time I have seen him since then. Now that was fifty, fifty-three years ago. Fifty-two years ago that, that happened. Anyhow, I came to California and I couldn't get a job. So I opened my own office over on Central Avenue right off--on Vernon right off of Central Avenue and started practicing on my own. I worked for somebody. I made appearances for other lawyers who had--black lawyers who had some--pretty good volume practice.$What other things that--were you proud of that you guys accomplished together? That you, you know, did on his [Nat King Cole's] behalf?$$Well, I think that's probably the thing I'm proudest of that I did on his behalf. He also was involved in another project, which never came to fruition during his life. But I represented, for a number of years, a fellow who was on death row in California, by the name of Wesley Robert Wells. He's one of the most famous inmates ever in California prison. But he was a rebel. He would get into fights with the prison guards, with other inmates. 'Cause he didn't take any crap off of anybody. And he was on death row. And it's a long story and I won't go into de--tell you, why he was on death row. But he never killed anybody. He got the death penalty under a quirk of California law. And I worked with a lawyer up north by the name of Charles Gary. And we had a campaign to save him from execution. And we finally got the governor, Goodwin Knight, to commute his sentence to life without possibility of parole. But when the Angela Davis case was going on, and the [U.S.] Supreme Court decided to--oh--prior to that time, I told Nat, I said, "Nat, the only way we're gonna get this man out of prison is we're gonna have to do a movie about his life--because his story is a much more compelling story than 'The Birdman of Alcatraz.'" You know that story don't you? I said, "So Nat--." He said, "Fine. We'll do it. Do it, Leo." And he hired a screenwriter who wrote a play, a movie script on Wesley Robert Wells. And it was never produced because Nat was supposed to put up the money even to produce it. You know. Because Nat died. And so the place went by--the thing went by the board. But when I was trying the Angela Davis case, the Supreme Court of the United States and the Supreme Court of California declared the death penalty to be unconstitutional. And all of the people, who were then on death row were--had their sentence changed to life. Not life without the possibility of parole, but just straight life. So, I looked at the situation and I said, now here is Wesley Wells, who never killed anybody and he's doing life without possibility of parole. That's a denial of equal protection of the laws--that he doesn't have his sentence, even though it's not a death penalty sentence, changed to life. So, I filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus up in Contra Costa County [California] where this appeared and--to order his release. And after his being in prison, and he was about sixty-five years old now--he was in prison about forty-five of his sixty-five years of life and ten or fifteen of those, he was on death row--I got that man out of prison. Now, that is my proudest accomplishment as a lawyer. Everybody asked me, "Is the Angela Davis case your proudest accomplishment?" I said, "No. The Angela Davis case I'm proud of but that was my proudest accomplishment--getting that man out of jail, out of prison."