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Solomon Brown Watson, IV

Senior vice president and corporate general counsel to The New York Times, Solomon B. Watson IV was born on April 14, 1944, in Salem, New Jersey. In 1966, Watson graduated from Howard University with his B.A. degree in English. During the Vietnam War, Watson joined the U.S. Army. He served as a lieutenant in the military police corps from 1966 to 1968 and was awarded the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medals. In 1968, while still in Vietnam, Watson took the LSAT and was accepted into Harvard Law School. Upon being discharged from the army in 1968, he entered Harvard Law School and graduated in 1971 with his J.D. degree.

After graduation, Watson worked as an associate in the Boston law firm of Bingham, Dana & Gould where he was one of their first minority lawyers. In 1974, he joined the legal department of The Times Company and became the assistant secretary of the company in December 1976, and secretary in July 1979. He was named assistant general counsel in 1984, general counsel in 1989, and senior vice president in 1996. With a twelve-lawyer staff, he supervises the paper’s litigation, copyright, and intellectual property issues and oversees acquisitions.

Watson has championed the cause of Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange. He was a member of the advisory board of the Agent Orange Settlement Fund, which was established to distribute funds to about ten million affected people. It was the largest class action settlement at its time. Watson was a participant in President Clinton’s Call to Action to the Legal Profession for Racial Equality and Pro Bono Services.

Watson served as chair of the Dinner Committee of the American Jewish Committee’s 1998 Judge Learned Hand Award Dinner and that same year he received the Pioneer of the Profession Award from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. In 1999, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Greater New York Chapter of ACCA. He is a member of One Hundred Black Men, Inc. and the Anglers’ Club of New York. In 2002, Watson was awarded the National Equal Justice Award by the NAACP League Defense and Educational Fund in honor of his professional accomplishments, commitment to public service and legal excellence. Watson is an avid saltwater fly fisherman.

Accession Number

A2005.245

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/27/2005

Last Name

Watson

Maker Category
Middle Name

Brown

Schools

Woodstown High

Harvard Law School

Howard University

First Name

Solomon

Birth City, State, Country

Salem

HM ID

WAT07

Favorite Season

Fishing Season

Sponsor

Brenda Gaines

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Key West, Florida

Favorite Quote

Always The Same, Never Changing.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

4/14/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fish

Short Description

Corporate general counsel Solomon Brown Watson, IV (1944 - ) led the legal department of the New York Times. Watson is a Vietnam War veteran who has championed the cause of veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

Employment

Bingham, Dana, and Gould

New York Times Company

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Solomon Brown Watson, IV's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls his childhood home

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV describes his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV remembers segregation in Woodstown, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV talks about his Aunt Mildred

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV describes his hometown of Woodstown, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV describes the churches in Woodstown, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls the economic divide between churches in Woodstown, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV remembers discrimination at Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls attending a newly integrated elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV remembers his childhood teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV remembers the impact of Emmett Till's murder

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls the de facto segregation of Woodstown High School

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls writing for his high school newspaper

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls his decision to attend Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls his freshman year at Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls the Civil Rights Movement at Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV remembers studying English at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls his prospects upon graduating from Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV remembers Military Police Officer Basic School at Fort Gordon, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls his response to Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s objection to the Vietnam War

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls receiving his orders to Vietnam

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV describes race relations in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV remembers jailing a friend while serving in Vietnam

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV describes deciding to attend law school

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Solomon Brown Watson, recalls his decision to attend Harvard Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls adjusting to life at Harvard Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls African American students at Harvard Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls hearing of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV remembers the news of his brother's death

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls his first position upon graduation from Harvard Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls joining The New York Times Company legal staff

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls discrimination suits brought against The New York Times Company

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls his first promotion at The New York Times Company

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls Myron Farber case

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV talks about the Judith Miller case

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV talks about the dismissal of Jayson Blair

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV talks about The New York Times Company legal department

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls New York Times Co. v. Tasini

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV comments on journalism

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls how he afforded Harvard Law School

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls attending the executive graduate program at Tuck School of Business

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls his promotion to general counsel of The New York Times Company

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV describes The New York Times' acquisition of The Boston Globe

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV describes his diverse legal work as general counsel

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV comments on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls working on strategy for The New York Times Company

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV talks about diversity at The New York Times

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV reflects upon his position at The New York Times

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV talks about intellectual diversity

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV talks about the Agent Orange Class Assistance Project

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV describes his mentors at The New York Times

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV talks about other minority general counsels

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV talks about affirmative action at The New York Times Company

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV reflects upon his mentorship of others

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV reflects upon the importance of history

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV reflects upon his legacy and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV talks about his first wife, Bernadette Aldridge

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV reflects upon his success

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV describes his organization memberships

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV describes his awards

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV talks about fly fishing

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Solomon Brown Watson, IV narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

6$6

DATitle
Solomon Brown Watson, IV remembers jailing a friend while serving in Vietnam
Solomon Brown Watson, IV recalls his first promotion at The New York Times Company
Transcript
What was the most difficult thing about you being there in Vietnam?$$I, I had a couple of interesting incidents. Once my, my driver--guy name Owens [ph.]. I think Owens was from Newark [New Jersey] or East Orange [New Jersey]. Owens was a good MP [military police]. He was big, he was black, he looked just like a black Mr. Clean, good guy. Used to love riding around with Owens, but Owens had a weakness for marijuana, and he was found to have--or a marijuana pipe was found in his, in his--near his bunk, so he was convicted of having marijuana that violated Article--it wasn't Article 15 but violated a rule, and he was sentenced to Long Binh Jail [Long Binh, Vietnam]. Long Binh [Long Binh Post] was a base camp, I think, west of, of barrack at--maybe ten or fifteen miles, or maybe ten miles away, and that's where people were sent to jail who'd violated rules. And I'm not sure about this, but I was asked to drive Owens to jail. Now, I'm not sure if it was because I was duty officer that day the duty officer takes care of that stuff or whether people wanted to test whether I was strong enough to drive my own driver to jail. That was kind of interesting. I thought that was kind of a test of, of some type. Whether it was intended as a test or not, it was a test. Now, the reality is I'm the kind of guy, if someone says, "Rosie has violated the rules," then Rosie goes to jail, and I'd be happy to drive her there. I'm the best person to drive her there. So, while somebody may have been testing me on that, not a problem, gotta top--you got what's a tough job for anyone else, give it to me and I'll make it easy.$So, what caused you to be promoted in '76 [1976]. From '74 [1974] to '76 [1976]? You'd only been here [The New York Times Company, New York, New York] for two years. What were you doing that stood out for them to recognize you (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) There are, there are, there, there are a number of factors which come into play in, in the success or failure of anyone's career, and by-and-large, most of these factors have been ones of success for me. Early on in my career, I had an occasion to make a presentation before the board of directors on a law which had recently come into effect, and the presentation went relatively well. I--$$But tell me the story because I know you were a junior lawyer, it wasn't common that juniors present, yeah (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) It--I was a very junior lawyer, the newest guy on the block, it was a new complex law, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, signed into law by President Ford [President Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr.] on September 2nd, 1974. All the lawyers in the department were smart; I was the new guy, I'm the guy that had to read the law, explain it to my bosses, one of whom used to sit in this office, and we had to come up with an administrative process for handling pension plan issues and welfare plan issues, medical, dental plan issues, and my bosses and I came up what we thought was--with what we thought was a reasonable structure, or scheme, as the English would say, and someone had to present it to the board because it involved the establishment of a new board committee. I, of course, thought that one of the senior guys would do it. They, of course, thought that it would be, be good for me to do it, and I remember one of my bosses--mentor--I just love this guy, said, "Sol [HistoryMaker Solomon Brown Watson, IV], okay, we're gonna practice, we're gonna do this; don't worry, it'll be okay, don't worry." I said, "Mike [Michael E. Ryan], just relax, there's no one shooting at me in there, you know? I'm a Vietnam [Vietnam War] vet, I can do this." But Mike, who was a great mentor and supporter was--he was more nervous about it than I was. So that was--it was helpful to me because later on when there was the need, because of a structural change in the organization, to promote someone up the ladder, the directors were familiar with me; I became corporate secretary, which led to my sitting in on board meetings, so they became very comfortable with me, and as there were corporate organizations and reorganizations, I was--I had the reputation of being a very hard worker, a very reliable worker, and when vacancies came up in the legal and administrative chain of command, I was able to, either by virtue of luck, or some--how can I say--admixture or mixture of luck and, and managing the process, influencing the process, I was able to, to be promoted--$$To assistant secretary--$$I went up from assistant secretary to secretary, I then became assistant general counsel--

The Honorable Leander Shaw

Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw, Jr. was born on September 6, 1930, in Salem, Virginia. His mother was a high school teacher and his father a high school principal, who later became the dean of Graduate Studies at Florida A&M University.
Shaw earned a B.A. from West Virginia State College in 1952. After graduating, Shaw entered the Army and served in the Korean conflict as an artillery officer. Motivated by the blatant racism he experienced in the military and inspired by the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement in the South, Shaw returned to school, and received his J.D. degree from Howard University's School of Law in 1957.

Shaw taught at Florida A&M University's Law School from 1957 to 1960 before entering private practice. While continuing private practice, Shaw also worked as both an assistant public defender and an assistant state's attorney in Jacksonville, Florida. His skill as a prosecutor was evident in his win/loss record: he prosecuted forty-two murder cases, only losing once. In 1979, Shaw was appointed to the bench, and presided over Florida's First District Court of Appeal. Just four years later, Shaw received an appointment as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Florida, where he served as the Chief Justice from 1990 to 1992. Shaw openly opposed Florida's continued use of the electric chair. In response to the 1999 execution of Allen Lee "Tiny" Davis, Shaw posted three-color photos taken after the event on his web site.

Shaw served on a number of advisory boards and was a member of various professional and community associations, including the American Bar Association, the National Center for State Courts, and Florida's Human Relations Council and Police Advisory Committee. Shaw's work extended into the international sphere as well. In September of 1991, he presented a paper at the Conference of Attorneys General of the African Nations held in Nigeria. He was granted honorary degrees from West Virginia State (LL.D.), Florida International University (Ph.D.), Nova University (LL.D), and Washington and Lee University (LL.D.) and was the recipient of such prestigious awards as the Florida Humanist of the Year (1991), and the Ben Franklin Award (1992).

Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw, Jr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 19, 2002.

Shaw passed away on December 25, 2015.

Accession Number

A2002.065

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/19/2002

Last Name

Shaw

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Lylburn Downing High School

West Virginia State University

Howard University

First Name

Leander

Birth City, State, Country

Salem

HM ID

SHA02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches

Favorite Quote

I get that mixed up with the grass.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

9/6/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Tallahassee

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Steak, Potatoes

Death Date

12/14/2015

Short Description

State supreme court judge The Honorable Leander Shaw (1930 - 2015 ) worked as both an assistant public defender and an assistant state's attorney in Jacksonville, Florida. His skill as a prosecutor is evident in Shaw's win/loss record: he prosecuted forty-two murder cases, and only lost one case. In 1979, Shaw was appointed to the bench, and presided over Florida's First District Court of Appeal. Just fours years later, Shaw received appointment as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Florida, where he served as the Chief Justice from 1990-1992

Employment

Florida A&M University

Delete

Duval County

Florida Industrial Relations Commission

First District Court of Appeal, FL

Florida Supreme Court

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Leander Shaw interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Leander Shaw's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Leander Shaw shares the origins of his name

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Leander Shaw recalls his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Leander Shaw remembers his mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Leander Shaw discusses his sister

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Leander Shaw recounts his upbringing in Lexington, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Leander Shaw begins to discuss his school life in Lexington, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Leander Shaw shares memories from his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Leander Shaw shares memories of his family life

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Leander Shaw describes his childhood avocations

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Leander Shaw recalls his undergraduate years at West Virginia State University

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Leander Shaw reviews his post-college pursuits

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Leander Shaw remembers an influential professor

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Leander Shaw recalls his years in the U.S. military

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Leander Shaw describes his law school experience

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Leander Shaw reviews his career pursuits following law school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Leander Shaw recalls his employment with the NAACP's Ink Fund

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Leander Shaw recounts his initial experience in private practice law

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Leander Shaw recalls civil rights conflict in Florida during the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Leander Shaw reflects on his years as a public defender

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Leander Shaw details his return to private practice law

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Leander Shaw recalls an offer from the Florida Workers' Compensation Commision

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Leander Shaw recalls his experience with the Florida Industrial Relations Commission

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Leander Shaw remembers his appointment to Florida's First District Court of Appeal

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Leander Shaw recounts his appointment as a Florida Supreme Court judge

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Leander Shaw recalls episodes from his years on the Florida Supreme Court

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Leander Shaw discusses Florida's process for retaining judges

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Leander Shaw recalls his campaign to retain a seat in the Florida Supreme Court

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Leander Shaw discusses Florida's death penalty policy

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Leander Shaw remembers his experience as chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Leander Shaw recounts the Florida Supreme Court's role in the 2000 presidential election

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Leander Shaw recalls the court proceedings around the 2000 presidential election

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Leander Shaw considers the long-term effects of the 2000 presidential election

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Leander Shaw reflects on his life and career

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Leander Shaw considers issues in the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Leander Shaw evaluates the situation of African American youth

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Leander Shaw calls for changes in the legal system

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Leander Shaw discusses law school admissions

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Leander Shaw considers his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Leander Shaw shares reflections on privilege