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Teri L. Jackson

State superior court judge and county attorney Teri L. Jackson was born in 1957 to Beatrice and Alson Jackson in Berkeley, California, where she grew up with her sister, Portia Collins. After watching the movie To Kill a Mockingbird, she developed an interest in the justice system. Jackson graduated from Jefferson High School at the age of sixteen and began her studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she earned her B.A. degrees in politics and history in 1977. She then went on to earn her J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law School in 1980.

Upon passing her bar exam, Jackson was hired as a deputy district attorney of San Mateo County, where she works as a trial attorney. Three years later, she began work as a prosecutor for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, serving in the domestic violence unit, the felony charging unit, and the felony sexual assault unit. Throughout her career, Jackson has worked to combat domestic abuse in the Bay Area. In 1988, she became the first person to successfully introduce expert testimony regarding elder abuse syndrome in a court case. In 1995, she co-founded the First Offender Prostitution Program (FOPP), a rehabilitation course for individuals arrested for their involvement with prostitution. The program was replicated in other American cities within years of its founding. Jackson became the first woman to head up a homicide unit in the state of California upon her promotion to head district attorney’s homicide unit in 1997.

After working in private practice with the law firm, of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP, Jackson was appointed to Superior Court Judge of California for the County of San Francisco in 2002. She was the first African American woman to serve in this position. She worked with an assortment of cases, including litigation in employment, trade secrets, the environment, real estate, and bankruptcy. Jackson has worked to increase the number of minorities working within the legal system, serving as an adjunct law professor at Hastings School of Law. Jackson is the recipient of the 2006 Rosina Tucker Award from the A. Philip Randolph Institute and the 2007 Community Service Award from the National Council of Negro Women, Inc.

Jackson is married to Imro Shair-Ali.

Teri L. Jackson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 6, 2011.

Accession Number

A2011.007

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/6/2011

Last Name

Jackson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

L.

Schools

University of California Santa Cruz

Georgetown University Law Center

First Name

Teri

Birth City, State, Country

Berkeley

HM ID

JAC28

Favorite Season

None

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

Italy

Favorite Quote

If you disagree with me, take me out.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

11/10/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/San Francisco

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak

Short Description

State superior court judge and county attorney Teri L. Jackson (1956 - ) was the first African American woman appointed to Superior Court Judge of California for the County of San Francisco.

Employment

University of California, San Francisco Hastings School of Law

County of San Francisco

University of San Francisco School of Law

Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, LLP, San Francisco

Office of the San Francisco District Attorney, San Francisco

San Francisco Law School

Office of the San Mateo District Attorney

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Teri Jackson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Teri Jackson talks about her mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Teri Jackson talks about her father's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Teri Jackson discusses her parents' upbringing and early adult lives

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Teri Jackson discusses her parents' marriage and decision to move to San Francisco, California

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Teri Jackson talks about her father's disposition and aspirations for his children

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Teri Jackson talks about her childhood and earliest memories

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Teri Jackson talks about religion and early childhood influences

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Teri Jackson talks about her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Teri Jackson discusses her early exposure to the legal profession

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Teri Jackson talks about her school experience

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Teri Jackson discusses early experiences with racism

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Teri Jackson talks about recognizing a hurtful person from her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Teri Jackson talks about her junior high school experience during the 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Teri Jackson discusses her parents' reactions to the Civil Rights Movement and Student Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Teri Jackson talks about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Teri Jackson discusses her heroes

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Teri Jackson talks about her evolving views and extracurricular activities in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Teri Jackson discusses choosing a legal specialization, her early legal influences and choosing a college

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Teri Jackson describes her experience attending the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the important world events of 1973

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Teri Jackson talks about choosing a law school and her experience attending Georgetown Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Teri Jackson talks about her work as a Deputy District Attorney in San Mateo County, California

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Teri Jackson describes the challenges she faced as an African American female Deputy District Attorney

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Teri Jackson discusses her work with the San Francisco District Attorney's Office and domestic violence cases

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Teri Jackson discusses prosecuting elder abuse cases and developments in domestic violence laws

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Teri Jackson discusses her opinions of the O.J. Simpson trial

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Teri Jackson talks about her most significant cases as an Assistant District Attorney

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Teri Jackson discusses being appointed to a judgeship of the Superior Court of California

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Teri Jackson talks about her experience as a judge and her judicial approach

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Teri Jackson talks about memorable cases she has tried as a Superior Court Judge

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Teri Jackson describes the impact of presiding over criminal court cases

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Teri Jackson talks about the dangers of being a judge and her judicial philosophy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Teri Jackson discusses her career activities and accomplishments

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Teri Jackson gives advice to future lawyers

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Teri Jackson discusses her hopes for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Teri Jackson reflects on her career and legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Teri Jackson talks about African American bar associations

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Teri Jackson talks about her family and how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

6$1

DATitle
Teri Jackson talks about her father's disposition and aspirations for his children
Teri Jackson discusses her work with the San Francisco District Attorney's Office and domestic violence cases
Transcript
So did he have relatives out here already?$$No, it was just kind of the thing, it was the black migration from the South. Let me back up a little bit too. My dad [Alson Jackson] came back with his brothers and a lot of them from World War II. My father talked about growing up in the south and his relatives said he had to leave. Cause they didn't think my father was going to live. My father was a very outspoken man. And the, the segregation--I mean this is, if you can think of something worse than Jim Crow. That--we were talking about Louisiana and during the time of my father's and my mom's upbringing. And Daddy often told me the story when he, when he went off to college, he didn't think that white people could be just. Because what he had experienced being a young African American man in the south. And he went to Southern [University, Louisiana] and one of the first classes, it was a literature class, and he read this book by this as he said, a great author, William Shakespeare. And the first story he read out of William Shakespeare was the 'Merchant of Venice'. And then he realized that not all white people were wrong or bad. He realized that there was always a struggle for good and evil and that his experience in Louisiana should not reflect on everybody. And another thing that Daddy learned from that book of the 'Merchant of Venice', is that there was a woman lawyer named Portia. And he said if he should ever have a daughter, she was going to be named Portia and she was going to be a lawyer. Now you look at my name, it's Teri. My older sister is named Portia. And my father always had plans. Survive World War II, take his education and to become a teacher, marry the homecoming queen, have a daughter, name her Portia, she would become a lawyer and she would fight for justice. Well he survived World War II, he did get his degree from Southern. But his Southern [University] education because it was from a black college, did not translate for him to be a teacher in California. And the only way he could be a teacher and to realize his dream to teach geography, was to go back and do another four years and my father said no. He was a very proud man. His degree in his mind was just as good as anybody else's. So he did not fulfill that part of the dream, but he did marry the homecoming queen, he did have a daughter named Portia, and Portia hated law. And my name Teri, is named after my sister's imaginary friend. She was four years old, she could spell Teri with to Rs, and I became the lawyer. And it, it was very interesting because my father did everything to make, to encourage my sister Portia to be a lawyer. My mother was on this master plan. Once my father said I want to do this, my mom [Beatrice Jackson] was the implementer, implementer. So what my mom would do was have Portia sit down and watch all the Perry Mason shows, the "Young Defenders", anything that had anything to do with law, they wanted--they put that poor little child in front of the TV set and made her watch TV that dealt with lawyers. She would--they would not allow her to watch "Dennis the Menace" because they said she was so bad, that she didn't--they didn't want her to get ideas. So it didn't work. I was born, not that I was an afterthought, but the whole focus was Portia to become a lawyer. And then the movie came out 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. My father and mother had this plan that okay, we're going to take Portia off to go see this movie 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and she'll realize her destiny. They couldn't find a babysitter for me cause I was about four or five years old when the movie came out. But they assumed that I would go to the movie, fall asleep and Portia would realize her destiny. Portia fell asleep, I watched the movie, I walked out of the theater and my mom said that I looked up at my dad and mom and said I want to be Atticus Fench. I want to be a lawyer, and I want to fight for justice. And the rest was history. And my--$$How old were you$$About four or five years old.$$Four or five.$$And I wanted--I saw an injustice. A man wrongly accused, a man wrongly convicted and ultimately died for something he didn't do. And I wanted to be a part of a system where I could make a difference. And what struck me most was--there were two scenes that struck me most about "To Kill a Mockingbird". Was when Atticus Fench walked out of the courtroom and everyone stood up who--in the balcony. And I remember those balconies when I would go down and visit my relatives in Louisiana when we would go to the movie theaters and we would have to go to the balcony. I remember that vividly. But when the minister turned to Scout and said stand because a great man is walking by, because he made an impact on these people. Another thing that was always in his, in my mind ever since I saw that movie was when the judge read the verdict, or the verdict was read and the judge stormed off the bench and slammed the door. I remember saying to my mom, why couldn't that judge--he is the judge, why couldn't he do something? Why did he just walk off the bench? He knew it was wrong. I was able to pick that up. And that has always been my guiding force of why I wanted to be a lawyer, and I guess ultimately to be a judge.$Okay now San Francisco, District Attorney's Office, 1984, okay. Okay now you were recruited?$$I was recruited by Arlo Smith. He wanted, he knew my interest in domestic violence cases, and the laws were just start--there were--I shouldn't even say laws. There was an awareness that these cases should be treated like crimes, like every other crime, and that this is not something that happens between two loving, consenting adults. It is something that needed to be dealt with and it was a big, passionate interest of mine.$$Let me ask you this: And I don't know how this plays out in the Bay area [California], but in Chicago [Illinois] there's a, a women's organization called Southwest Women Working Together. It was formed around the issue of domestic violence. It was formed by the wives of Chicago Police Officers.$$Interesting.$$Yes, who themselves were--$$Victims of domestic violence.$$Yes. That was (unclear) actually stuck, you know, and stayed in existence. It still exists.$$Well the organization here in San Francisco and that's the Family Violence Prevention Fund, many of those women were either victims of domestic--when I say victims, but their partner or spouse was battering them, or they grew up in domestic violence environments. And so that's what started here in San Francisco and became nationally recognized. And there were a group of us. One now is the DA [District Attorney] over in Alameda County, [California] Nancy O'Malley. There was a woman by the name of Pierce who's a DA, and she still is down here in Santa Clara [California]. And several people in southern California. We were kind of the California advocates as prosecutors in the area of domestic violence and domestic violence prevention. And I'm very proud of many of the laws that are here in California, I was involved in them. Testifying, writing them, implementing them, teaching. When the Violence Against Women Act took place, I was called upon to lecture around the country in how to effect prosecution and how to set up a Domestic Violence Unit in various DAs offices. And I do a lot of training with the police departments all over the country.$$Okay. How did things change?$$Oh, God.$$--the training and the laws.$$When I first--this is how even though my court that I sit on, and a judge who was well respected, who's now since passed. When domestic violence cases, when we were taking an active, you know, had a unit and we were pursuing these cases, I'll never--and it would take a great deal to convince a person of domestic violence to come and testify. To testify against this person who you've entrusted your life with, who you've shared a bed with, meals and so forth and sacrificed for. And now you're testimony may, I won't say responsible, but it will have a factor in whether or not this person goes to prison or not. And so it took a lot. Very fragile souls. And I'll never forget I just got this woman convinced to come in, in fact I, I used to go and pick them up and bring them to court. And she was crying. And I had to get--and she was just composed and I said don't worry. We're in there, the court, judges, we're going to all be there to protect you. Just tell the truth. So here she is, she's a little behind me. And I'll never forget the judge yells out, courtroom full of people, "Oh here comes Teri Jackson and her debutant." That was the attitude when we first started prosecuting domestic violence cases. Judges hated it. And I'll never forget another judge said if two adult people want to beat their brains out at their home, why do we need our criminal justice system involved? So when you're telling me that the domestic violence awareness and the organization started in Chicago by women who were officers of domestic violence, I am not surprised. Because people felt that when an officer arrives on the scene, just take that battering partner out of the house, walk him around the block, and bring him back home. Walking that person around the block only meant you're sobering him up, so therefore he can hit her more, you know. So I'm very happy that we made it a recognized crime. It's always been a crime, but a recognized crime. And we've even gone one step further. California was one of the first to acknowledge domestic violence partners, same sex partners. That this is just as prevalent in same sex relationships as in heterosexual relationships. And I'm very proud that we were able to get a voice for those who are in those battering or troubling situations.$$So it really changed the attitude, I mean police can no longer say that someone being battered or beaten to a pulp in their house is okay as long as somebody, they're married to or going with is doing this to them?$$Oh, yeah. To get that--and not only the police get, society get the courts. I mean I remember my first jury trial. There is no question. You know, here are the photographs, just getting jurors convinced that this is a crime, and get them to talk about it. And you know now, more and more people are forthcoming and said I grew up in a household of domestic violence, or I have heard of it. People didn't talk about that in '84 [1984]. You know I had a case where the young lady said the reason I didn't report it because I saw my mother being beaten, I saw my grandmother being beaten. I just thought it was a way of life. I've also when I was a prosecutor, saw the consequences of children growing up in households of domestic violence. Had a very unfortunate case where this young kid saw his mother being beaten, not by one, but by several men in her life. But the last one, this one, this child trusted this man cause he had been in his life the longest. And he turned around and beat, had beaten his mother and he was only 11 years old. He felt helpless. The man was convicted and this child would go and visit him in, in prison. And it only--what happened was this child then turned eighteen and he was only visiting him, this batterer, the one, last one who had battered his mother in prison just to keep tabs on him. And on the first day that the man was released, this child had him come to a certain location in San Francisco and had ambushed him and killed him. And that is the impact. This child felt, and I remember in his interview, watching his tape, he said I was helpless, I couldn't help my mother and now I could. But it was the wrong way.$$Yeah this is a serious matter, domestic violence. So, so what are the--what do you think is the most significant legislation or action that you took part in?

Robert Lewis Harris

Lawyer, activist, and business executive Robert Lewis Harris was born to Lucy and Benjamin Harris on March 4, 1944, in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. After moving to California in 1960, Harris, a 1961 graduate of Oakland Technical High School, received his A.A. degree from Merritt College in Oakland in 1963 and his B.A. degree from San Francisco State University in 1965 (in 2007 he was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame). Harris worked as a probation officer for four years before entering the University of California Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall). Shortly after Harris’s receipt of his J.D. degree in 1972, he joined the legal staff at Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) where he spent thirty-four years as an attorney and business executive, retiring in January 2007.

In 1973, Harris became active with his local bar associations, serving in 1976 as President of the Charles Houston Bar Association (CHBA), an association of Black lawyers in Northern California. He made a name for himself in the legal community by leading a team of Black lawyers who successfully defended the NAACP against libel and slander charges in 1978. A year later, he made history by becoming the first lawyer from the West Coast to ever serve as President of the National Bar Association (NBA). A Founder of the California Association of Black Lawyers in 1977, Harris in 1982 served as a founding member of the board of the National Bar Institute, the funding component of the NBA. Later that year, he became the first President of the Wiley Manuel Law Foundation, the funding component of CHBA. In 1983, he became Chairman of the Legal Redress Committee of Oakland branch of the NAACP, and in 1986, he received the NAACP’s highest legal honor, the W. Robert Ming Award for his advocacy on behalf of the NAACP. Harris has also received the highest honors of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity (Laurel Wreath Award) and the NBA (C. Francis Stradford Award).

In 1985, Harris argued and won a landmark corporate free speech case in the U.S. Supreme Court protecting PG&E’s First Amendment rights. In 1987, Harris married Glenda Newell, with whom he had two children. After completing the Harvard Business School’s Advance Management Program in 1988, he began his ascension through the corporate ranks at PG&E, first as Vice President of Community Relations and later as Vice President of Environmental Affairs. In the latter position, Harris expanded and led PG&E’s environmental stewardship endeavors to a new level. Harris has continued his involvement in community issues by serving in the highest ranking positions in Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity (Grand Polemarch) and in Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity (the Boulé) as Grand Sire Archon-Elect; serving on the board of the Port of Oakland; being involved with the United Negro College Fund of the Bay Area; working with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (Co-Chair); working with the California League of Conservation Voters; working with the American Association of Blacks in Energy (General Counsel); being involved with the African American Experience Fund of the National Parks Foundation; serving on the U.S. EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council; working with the California EPA Environmental Justice Advisory Committee; serving on the National Environmental Policy Commission; and being involved with the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, among many others.

Accession Number

A2007.195

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/6/2007

Last Name

Harris

Maker Category
Middle Name

Lewis

Schools

Williams Elementary School

Peake High School

Oakland Technical High School

Merritt College

San Francisco State University

University of California, Berkeley School of Law

Harvard Business School

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Arkadelphia

HM ID

HAR25

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

Arkansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahamas

Favorite Quote

If You Have No Confidence In Self, You're Twice Defeated In The Race Of Life. With Confidence, You Have Won Before You Even Started.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/4/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Ithaca

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Energy executive and civil rights lawyer Robert Lewis Harris (1944 - ) worked for the Pacific Gas & Electric Company for over three decades. Throughout his career in the legal profession, Harris was involved with a wide variety of free speech, environmental, and community advocacy issues.

Employment

Alameda County Probation Department

Pacifica Police Department

Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Lewis Harris' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers the Williams School in Arkadelphia, Arkansas

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his father's start as a minister

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his early personality

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers the influence of his elementary school teacher

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the community of Arkadelphia, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about his father's churches in Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers Peake High School in Arkadelphia, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls his teachers and classmates at Peake High School

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his decision to move to California

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers school integration in Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers his move to Oakland, California

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the student body of Oakland Technical High School in Oakland, California

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers enrolling in classes at Oakland Technical High School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his experiences at Oakland Technical High School in Oakland, California

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his experiences at Oakland Junior College

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the demographics of Oakland, California

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers transferring to San Francisco State College in San Francisco, California

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his role as an officer of the Alameda County Probation Department

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the juvenile probation system in Alameda County, California

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his decision to attend law school

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the culture of the San Francisco Bay Area

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls his first year at the University of California Berkeley School of Law

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his experiences at the University of California Berkeley School of Law

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about his position on the California Law Review

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls his second year at the University of California Berkeley School of Law

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers his summer work experiences during law school

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls joining the legal department of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers Frederick Searls and Richard Clarke

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls his first legal case at the Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his first legal case on corporate free speech

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the case of Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Public Utilities Commission of California, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert Lewis Harris describes Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Public Utilities Commission of California, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers the decision of Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Public Utilities Commission of California

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about the energy crisis

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his legal work for the NAACP

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls how he was chosen to argue the case of Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Public Utilities Commission of California

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the precedent set by Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Public Utilities Commission of California

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about the Charles Houston Bar Association

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert Lewis Harris describes the creation of the Charles Houston Bar Association Foundation, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers Benjamin Travis

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris remembers Earl B. Dickerson

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about his time management skills

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his role in the National Bar Association

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about the past presidents of the National Bar Association

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about the history of the National Bar Association

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his role in funding African American bar associations

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris reflects upon his leadership skills

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his concerns for African American organizations

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls the history of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about W.E.B. Du Bois' involvement with the Boule

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris reflects upon the state of education in the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his transition to the operating division of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his role as the central division manager of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls the Oakland firestorm of 1991, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Robert Lewis Harris recalls the Oakland firestorm of 1991, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about the contamination of the water supply in Hinkley, California

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his career at the Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about the blackouts of 2001 in California

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Robert Lewis Harris talks about his family

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Robert Lewis Harris describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Robert Lewis Harris describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Robert Lewis Harris reflects upon the importance of history

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

8$2

DATitle
Robert Lewis Harris remembers enrolling in classes at Oakland Technical High School
Robert Lewis Harris remembers the decision of Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Public Utilities Commission of California
Transcript
Was that difficult though, that being your senior year, I mean besides the--you know, 'cause it's all new. You--$$Yeah, it was quite different. I--you have to go to your counselor and get your classes. So I went to the counselor, a person I'll never forget as long as I live. Her name was Mrs. Hillegas, H-I-L-L-E-G-A-S [Miriam Hillegas], and saw all the courses that could be taken. And you had choices between college prep and non-college prep, what they call workshop and all that other stuff. And of course, having believed all along that I was bright and would go to college, so I signed up for all college prep courses and gave her the slip.$$And, and so that worked out--$$No.$$Okay.$$She properly denied it (laughter).$$So tell me what happened. Let's talk about--$$Well, she was very kind. She looked at it, and I recall she looked back up at me like I wonder what's his problem. And either I brought with me or had my transcript from my prior--or my grades. It was my grades from my eleventh grade, having been finished eleventh grade at Peake High School [Arkadelphia, Arkansas]. And I presented those to her, which was essentially an A minus average, and she sort of frowned and smiled at the same time, as though this poor kid doesn't know. And she said, "We can't enroll you in college prep courses." "You can't enroll me in college prep courses?" She said, "No. You wouldn't be able to compete because you're coming from this school," and, she was trying to be helpful, I guess, "in Arkansas, and the kids in college prep are very smart students, and you just wouldn't be able to keep up with them." And I did not believe that. I, I mean, I just couldn't believe it. It was the first time in my life anybody had ever told me that I could not compete educationally. I'd never heard that concept before. And of course, she was the first white teacher, or counselor, that I had ever seen face to face. So, that was disappointing obviously. And I went back home that evening and gave the news to my sister [Jean Harris Blacksher], who went berserk and insisted that the next day that her husband, Artis [Artis Blacksher], who is 6'5", at that time at least 250 plus [pounds], today a little bit larger, who was instructed by her to go with me back to school. And Artis was high school graduation, truck driver; he was a member of the Teamsters [International Brotherhood of Teamsters]. And he went back with me the next morning to school to see Mrs. Hillegas. And I will always remember that morning because he was not diplomatic. He just went in and started raving at her. And of course, it scared the hell out of her, and she just said any course he wants he gets, any course he want and just, you know, like get out of here. This man is crazy (laughter). And so she signed, and I was able to get all of my college prep courses. And then I went to those courses, which was odd to me. I'd never seen this before, coming from an integrated--a segregated school into my first class in an integrated school. It looked--I'd seen black students at school, and population was about 10 percent or so, so you seen them. But when I got in the class, I think in any class I didn't see more than one black student outside of myself, and I thought that was strange. But then it dawned on me, ultimately, wait a minute; those students probably went through the same thing that I went through that my brother-in-law just went berserk on, and they weren't into the college prep courses because of the belief that they could not compete. And so I, in, in, at Oakland Tech [Oakland Technical High School, Oakland, California] I was usually one or two, three at the most, of blacks students in any of those college prep courses.$So describe the experience and the result.$$The experience was great. It never dawned on me that I was gonna lose the case [Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Public Utilities Commission of California, 1986]. I was convinced that I would win, and I was convinced--and some people say you were lucky; it was you were cocky, or whatever. I had done so much research on every single justice, how they think, what they wrote about the subject, and even before I argued the case, I had predicted who would vote for it and who would vote against it, who would be in my favor and who would not be in my favor. As the appellate, we had lost in California, so we had to go first, and so I went. The, if you look at the transcript, the first question asked of me was from Justice Rehnquist [William Rehnquist], who was not the chief justice at the time because Burger [Warren E. Burger] was. Rehnquist, with his bad back, leans up and say, "Mr. Harris [HistoryMaker Robert Lewis Harris], where did you get this notion that a corporation, like an individual, is entitled to negative First Amendment rights, the right not to speak? We know we've granted them the right to speak, but going so far as giving them right not to speak is, you know, somehow absurd." I smiled. I said, "I got it from Justice Powell [Lewis F. Powell, Jr.], of course," (laughter), and then went on to explain why. And Justice Powell is just sitting there grinning. I knew then he would write the, the, the opinion, and he did write the opinion. The, the, the other justices, with the exception of Marshall [Thurgood Marshall], was pretty much engaged in the--Marshall didn't ask a single question. But they were really engaged in it, the (unclear). As you look at the news articles, all you see is Associated Press said it was one of the most animated [U.S.] Supreme Court arguments in long time before the Supreme Court. I needed, in particular, Sandra Day O'Connor, who was the first woman on the Supreme Court and hadn't been there too long. I knew I needed her vote, and I became convinced I had it when my opponent came up to argue, said I'll go first; he came second. And when she started cross examining him and calling him by my name, I said ah, I must have made a hell of an impression. And I knew he was in trouble, and primary because of the questions that she was asking of him, and he couldn't really respond. So I figured I had her vote as well, so I--and I, and I knew I had Marshall and Brennan [William J. Brennan, Jr.] because of the way that I had argued the case and had set out the briefs, so that government--and, and this shocked a lot of people. A lot of the corporate lawyers and so called experts in constitutional law--you notice I said so called--they knew Brennan and Marshall, the two most liberal justices, would never vote for a corporation. They're, they're probably right if you framed it that way. But I framed the, the issue that they had to answer the question whether or not you were gonna allow government to pick and choose who can speak. Because the only way you can enforce this statute or this order, since the envelope is very tiny, and only so many voices can be heard, which means that the state has to decide who speaks this month, who speaks next month. And then I just, just had fun quoting Brennan and Marshall the case after case after case where they said government has no business picking and choosing who can speak. And the only way that you can rule in favor of the state in this instance is for the state to pick and choose who speaks (laughter). And that was absolutely correct. And, and, and that was what the fatal flaw that most constitutional lawyers didn't quite understand, that Brennan and Marshall were tied to that notion; they were consistent. They couldn't now say, "Well, if it's a corporation, the state can pick and choose." No, they have been consistent. They don't want government picking and choosing who can speak, and you shouldn't. And, and the other thing I said, you--, "If free speech is about free speech, you really shouldn't have to decide," and if you look in the transcript, you'll see this, "you have to look and see who's speaking to determine whether or not that speech is permissible." Speech is a permissible or it is not. So you don't need to look and say oh, that's John Jones speaking; oh no, that's a corporation speaking. You're gonna let John Jones speak but not the corporation. So anyway, they brought in a 5-4, 5-3 decision. Justice Blackmun [Harry Blackmun] recused himself apparently because he owned utilities stock, because when the case was called, he got up and walked out. The opinion was written by Justice Powell and concurred in by Marshall, Brennan, Sandra Day O'Connor, and the chief justice, not Rehnquist, of course, but Burger.$$Now how much time passed between your argument and the decision?$$It was October the 8th [1985]; the decision came out in February [1986].

The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson

Federal district court judge Thelton Eugene Henderson was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on November 28, 1933 to Wanzie and Eugene Marion Henderson. Henderson grew-up in the South central area of Los Angeles, California in an all-black neighborhood. He graduated from Jefferson High School in Los Angeles and was the recipient of a football scholarship to attend the University of California at Berkeley. In 1956, Henderson graduated with his B.A. degree in political science. Later, in 1962, Henderson earned his J.D. degree from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley and was admitted to the California Bar in January of 1963.

Both his high school counselor and football coach was alumnus of the University of California at Berkeley and encouraged him to attend their alma mater. While there, he became interested in African American history and helped to form an organization that catered to African American students. After graduating from college, he was drafted into the United States Army, where he served as a clinical psychology technician. Thereafter, he earned his law degree and was hired as an attorney with the civil rights division of the United States Department of Justice, where he served from 1962 to 1963. During his tenure with the Justice Department, Henderson investigated patterns of discriminatory practices in the South. Returning to Northern California, he practiced general law in private practice and was the directing attorney of the East Bayshore Neighborhood Legal Center in Palo Alto. From 1968 to 1976, Henderson was the assistant dean of the Stanford University School of Law. There, he helped increase minority enrollment to twenty percent of the student body and taught law classes.

In 1977, Henderson became a founding partner of Rosen, Remcho and Henderson in San Francisco, where he remained until 1980. He also taught administrative law and civil procedure at Golden State University of Law in San Francisco. In 1980, Henderson was appointed to the United States Federal Court and became the Chief Judge of the United States District of Northern California in 1990, thus becoming the first African American to reach that position. In 1998, he became Senior U.S. District Judge. Henderson was the recipient of the 2003 American Inns of Court Circuit Professionalism Award for the Ninth Circuit in recognition of a senior practicing lawyer or judge whose life and practice serves as an example for others.

He is divorced and has one son. He resides in Berkeley, California and enjoys fly-fishing.

Thelton Henderson was interviewed by The HistoryMaker on April 7, 2004.

Accession Number

A2004.044

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/7/2004

Last Name

Henderson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Eugene

Schools

Thomas Jefferson High School

University of California, Berkeley

Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California

First Name

Thelton

Birth City, State, Country

Shreveport

HM ID

HEN01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Fishing

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

11/28/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/San Francisco

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Gumbo

Short Description

Federal district court judge The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson (1933 - ) was the first African American Chief Judge of the United States District of Northern California, and has served as the Assistant Dean of the Stanford University School of Law.

Employment

United States Department of Justice

East Bayshore Neighborhood Legal Center

Stanford Law School

Rosen, Remcho & Henderson

Golden Gate University School of Law

United States District Court, Northern District of California

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his maternal and paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes his earliest memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about growing up in South Central Los Angeles, California

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his and his family's relationship to church

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his experiences at Trinity Street Elementary School in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his childhood dreams and aspirations

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes his junior high and high school experiences in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes how he applied to the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about playing baseball and football while attending Jefferson High School in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson recalls his academic experience at Jefferson High School and in his pre-college courses at University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes his friends at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his academic plans for attending the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes his experiences at the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his courses at the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about playing football at the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his timeline following his 1956 graduation from the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes his experiences at Boalt Hall, the University of California, Berkley School of Law

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes the racial demographics of Boalt Hall, the University of California, Berkeley School of Law

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about passing the State of California bar examination

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his employment expectations following Boalt Hall, the University of California Berkeley School of Law

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes how he came to work for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about working for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes his field experiences working for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes his field experiences working for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson explains how the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department built a case for voting discrimination

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on his outlook on race, segregation and discrimination

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his experiences interacting with the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his resignation from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department in 1963

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on his outlook on his life and law career

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes his relationship with Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson remembers the 16th Street Baptist church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson remembers the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson reflects upon leaving the U.S. Justice Department in 1964

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his career path following his work for the U.S. Justice Department, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes his relationship with Medgar Evers

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson remembers driving James Baldwin from Selma to Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his career path following his work for the U.S. Justice Department, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his experiences working as a lawyer in Oakland, California in the 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about working as assistant dean at Stanford Law School in Stanford, California

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about working in a law practice with Joe Remcho and Sandy Rosen in the late 1970s

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson explains how he was appointed as a federal judge for the Northern District of California in 1980

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his work on the appeal for United States v. Banks and Means (Wounded Knee)

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson describes the Krause v. Rhodes appeal in 1977 and the values of his law firm, Rosen, Remcho and Henderson

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about applying to be a federal judge for the Northern District of California, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about applying to be a federal judge for the Northern District of California, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

4$8

DATitle
The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson talks about his academic plans for attending the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California
The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson remembers driving James Baldwin from Selma to Birmingham, Alabama
Transcript
All right. So, you've graduated from high school [Jefferson High School, Los Angeles, California] and you've gone to summer school. You're going to enter college. Did you have any i- what were you going to study? What were you plans when you went to college?$$When I went to college, as I said, I think, by then I knew I was gonna be a lawyer and not a doctor. And, I think those were the two choices I saw. And, I was willfully prepared to go to college. My mother--nobody in my family had ever gone to college, and I think, most of them had not graduated from high school. So, I was going in cold, not knowing what it was other than it sounded good. So, that the first day at Cal in registration, they had it outside, and you'd go to tables and they'd have letters of E to H or something. And, you'd get your cards and you'd fill them out. And, finally I got to a table and one of the cards said--one of the students that they'd hired to help with his process said, "What's you major?" She was filling it out. And, I said, "Law." And, I still remember this sort of condescending look, "Law is a graduate major. You're an undergraduate." And, I tell you, I didn't know the difference at that point, between graduate and undergraduate. I--and, I didn't know what my major was. So, she said, "Well, come back when you figure out your major." And, I walked off totally bewildered. And, at this time, if you're--University of California [University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California], one of the biggest schools in the nation at the time, had about less than twenty blacks going. So, I wandered around, I found one, and another one of lucky strokes of mine, I ran into Julius Devereaux. And, I said, "Well, what's your major?" And, he said, "Poli sci." And, I said, "What's poli sci?" He said, "Political science." And, he told me a little about it. And, I went back, and my major was political science. And, I've always thought over these years, he had a brother named Joe Devereaux who was an engineering major (laughter). And, I've often wondered if I'd bumped into Joe, would I had been an engineering major. I mean, I was that naive. I was, in fact, I'll tell you another story. Cal was so big, when I went to summer school, the football team registered me and did all of that for me and I lived in a boarding house there near campus. And, the first day, our class was at 101 Dwinelle. And, I went around looking for Dwinelle Street. I thought that was an address. I was--it's a miracle that I'm sitting here and you're interviewing me, and I survived all of that ignorance I brought to college. But, anyway, that's the way I started off.$There's another story, and tell me if these war stories are getting boring but, there's another story related to an [U.S.] Air Force base. James Baldwin was in Selma [Alabama], and I had met him in Birmingham when he was at the A.G. Gaston [Motel, Birmingham, Alabama]. And then things, the action moved to Selma and he was there. And, I was in the [U.S.] Post Office building where the federal presence was. And, I heard on the radio there, and I was the only one in there then, a two way radio conversation in which they were talking about Baldwin. And, I heard them say, "Yeah, we're gonna get that black nigger. He thinks he's," you know, "down here to tell us what to do." So, and, I don't know who it was, but I went out and I told him. I said, "Hey, I just heard this, and I think you better be careful." And, he says (makes noise). And, he says, "I better get out of here." The story is, I tell you it's absolutely true, but (laughter). So, he had driven there with a SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] worker who had this red convertible and, you know, I said, "No. I don't think you ought to be going in a red convertible." We talked, and we talked, and then finally, I said, "Well, look," it was getting late, "I'm going back to Birmingham, ride with me." And, so, we went and got in my car, and his brother, David [Baldwin], got in and this SNCC worker. And, I--he left his car there, as I recall. We got in the car and I was telling them all the things I had learned. "If--be careful, it's getting dark. If you see a car that seems to be following us, let me know. And, if a car comes up and it looks like it's gonna pass, watch out." Because sometimes they do the drive by. And, I was doing all of this and he was just scared, you know, thinking. And, then I was staying at the Air Force base [Craig Air Force Base], and that's what started this story. So, I hadn't checked out. So, I went to the air force base, went in, checked out, paid my--it's great I stayed in the officer's quarter. It cost one dollar a night to stay there. And, I don't know, I think my per diem then was twenty-five dollars. I came back to Washington always with a lot of money. It was a good deal. So, anyway, checked out of the air force base, got in the car, and drove to Birmingham. And, then he thanked me. And, two stories that grow from that. One, a while later he came to, this is after I lost my job and I was in Washington [D.C.], right. He came to Washington. He was a big attraction then. He was at the height of his fame and I went to this thing that was full of people and he said, "I want to introduce my friend, [HM] Thelton [E.] Henderson who saved my life," you know, and told the story. And, said, you know, and he told the story much like I told it, and then said, "But, you know, when I started feeling safe?" Talking to the audience, and answered his own quest--he said, "When he stopped at the military base and got a gun" (laughter). And, over all the years, I'd never had the nerve to tell him, I didn't get a gun (laughter).$$(Laughter).$$He thought, I had gone and got a gun and I was ready to (laughter). And, I never told him that I just got my suitcase (laughter). But, the other story that derives from that, he always said as we were driving and we got where we knew we safe, we weren't being followed, he said, he was gonna write about this incident and he had a title for it. It was gonna be called 'Flight to Birmingham.' And, the title was the irony, he said, "Last week I was in Birmingham [Alabama] and I thought that was the most dangerous place I'd ever been. And, now I'm fleeing to Birmingham." And, then he was gonna write about that, and he never did. I always looked forward to seeing him write about that incident.