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Jessie Carney Smith

Librarian, author and educator Jessie Carney Smith was born on September 24, 1930 in Greensboro, North Carolina to James Ampler and Vesona Bigelow Carney. Smith attended Mount Zion Elementary School and James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro. She graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with her B.S. degree in home economics in 1950. Smith pursued graduate studies at Cornell University and then received her M.A. degree in child development from Michigan State University in 1956, and her M.A.L.S. degree from the George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in 1957.

In 1957, Smith was hired as an instructor and head library cataloger at Tennessee State University. In 1960, she enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Illinois, and worked as a teaching assistant from 1961 to 1963. Smith then returned to Tennessee State University, where she was hired as an assistant professor and coordinator of library services. In 1964, she became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. degree in library science from the University of Illinois; and, in 1965, she was hired as a professor of library science and the university librarian of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. She was named the William and Camille Cosby Professor in the Humanities at Fisk University in 1992, and appointed dean of the library in 2010. Smith has also lectured part-time at Alabama A&M University, the University of Tennessee and the George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University.

Smith served as consultant to the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, the U.S. Office of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and the American Library Association. She directed three institutional self-studies at Fisk University, resulting in the institution’s reaffirmation of accreditation by SACS. In addition, Smith has directed multiple projects funded by NEH and the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and served on several Fisk University campus committees.

Smith has published numerous research guides and reference books. In 1991, she released the award winning, Notable Black American Women, and went on to publish Notable African American Men in 1999. Her other books include Black Heroes of the Twentieth Century, Freedom Facts and Firsts: 400 Years of the African American Civil Rights Experience, and Black Firsts: 4000 Groundbreaking and Pioneering Historical Events, among others.

Smith received the Martin Luther King Black Authors Award in 1982 and the National Women's Book Association Award in 1992. She received the Candace Award for excellence in education, Sage magazine's Ann J. Cooper Award, and distinguished alumni awards from both the Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and the University of Illinois. She was named the Academic/Research Librarian of the Year from the Association of College and Research Libraries in 1985; and, in 1997, received the key to the city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In 2011, Smith was awarded the Global Heritage Award from the Global Education Center and the Outstanding Achievement in Higher Education Award from the Greater Nashville Alliance of Black School Educators.

Jessie Carney Smith was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 22, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.011

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/22/2014

Last Name

Smith

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Carney

Schools

Mt. Zion Elementary

James B. Dudley High School

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

Cornell University

Michigan State University

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

First Name

Jessie

Birth City, State, Country

Greensboro

HM ID

CAR28

State

North Carolina

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Birth Date

9/24/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Nashville

Country

United States

Short Description

Librarian, author, and educator Jessie Carney Smith (1930 - ) is the dean of Fisk University’s library and the William and Camille Cosby Professor in the Humanities. She has worked at Fisk University since 1965, and has published numerous research guides and reference books, including the award-winning Notable Black American Women. In addition, Smith was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. degree in library science from the University of Illinois.

Employment

Fisk University

Tennessee State University

Peabody College of Vanderbilt University

University of Tennessee

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

William T. Coleman, Jr.

William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr., was the first African American to clerk for a U.S. Supreme Court justice, served as secretary of transportation under the Ford administration, and helped try numerous important civil rights cases. He was born on July 7, 1920, in the Germantown district of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to William Thaddeus and Laura Beatrice Mason Coleman. Coleman’s father was a director of the Germantown boys club for forty years, and as a result, Coleman met many African American notables at an early age, including W.E.B. DuBois. After attending an all-black segregated elementary school, Coleman attended the mostly-white Germantown High School. After high school, Coleman attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated summa cum laude with his B.A. degree in 1941. Eager to work in law ever since childhood, Coleman attended Harvard Law School later that year. In 1943, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. As defense counsel for eighteen courts-martial, he won acquittals for sixteen. He returned to Harvard Law School after the war.

In 1946, Coleman received his L.L.B. degree magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, after becoming the third African American man to serve on the board of editors of the Harvard Law Review. He was a Langdell fellow, and was therefore permitted to stay at Harvard Law School to study for an extra year. In 1947, he was admitted to the bar and obtained a job working as a law clerk with Judge Herbert F. Goodrich of the Third Circuit’s U.S. Court of Appeals. The following year, he became U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter’s law clerk, and as such, he was the first African American to clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1949, Coleman joined Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison, a noted New York law firm, where he met Thurgood Marshall and worked pro bono to assist Marshall with NAACP cases. In 1952, Coleman became the first African American to join an all-white firm, and in 1966, he became partner at Dilworth, Paxon, Kalish, Levy and Coleman. Coleman worked in the Civil Rights Movement throughout the 1950s, including five cases for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) cases that led directly to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. He also served as co-counsel for McLaughlin v. Florida, a case that decided the constitutionality of interracial marriages.

In 1959, President Eisenhower convinced Coleman to work on the President’s commission on employment policy; Coleman continued to work in presidential commissions for Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, including the Warren commission’s investigation of Kennedy’s assassination. In 1971, Coleman was elected president of the NAACP-LDF. In 1975, Coleman was appointed President Gerald Ford's Secretary of Transportation, becoming only the second African American to hold a cabinet-level position. During his tenure, he created the first Statement of National Transportation Policy in U.S. history. When Carter became president in 1976, Coleman returned to the private sector, becoming a senior partner of the Los Angeles-based O’Melveny & Myers law firm. In 1995, Coleman was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contributions to the legal profession and to society.

Coleman passed away on March 31, 2017 at the age of 96.

Accession Number

A2006.132

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/7/2006

Last Name

Coleman

Maker Category
Middle Name

T.

Schools

Germantown High School

Roosevelt Middle School

Thomas Meehan School

John E. Hill School

Harvard Law School

University of Pennsylvania

First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

COL09

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Vermont

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

7/7/1920

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Wife's Cooking

Death Date

3/31/2017

Short Description

Corporate lawyer and presidential secretary William T. Coleman, Jr. (1920 - 2017 ) was the second African American to hold a Cabinet position at Harvard Law School, the first African American clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court and the first African American to join an all-white law firm; he was senior partner of O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

Employment

U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

U.S. Supreme Court

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Dilworth, Paxson, Kalish and Levy

U.S. Department of Transportation

O'Melveny and Myers

Favorite Color

Dark Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his siblings and the origins of his name

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr, describes his early racial identity

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his family traditions

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his early education

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his reading disability

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about his family's history

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls St. Barnabas' Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his early aspiration to become a lawyer

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. remembers his early interest in civil rights

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes the Quaker philosophy

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. remembers his friends from high school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his high school influences and mentors

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his decision to attend the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls his initial experiences at the University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about attending an integrated university

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. remembers his classmate from University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls joining Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his impressions upon leaving University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. remembers his motivation to pursue a law career

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes the influence of politics in his early life

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls his decision to attend Harvard Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his experience at Harvard Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls his U.S. Army Air Corps pilot training

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. remembers the U.S. Army Air Corps

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls his experience of discrimination in the U.S. military

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. remembers meeting Thurgood Marshall

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his wife, Lovida Hardin Coleman, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls his return to Harvard Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his friendship with Elliot Lee Richardson

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his role on the Harvard Law Review while at law school

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about Charles Hamilton Houston and William H. Hastie

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his interest in jurisprudence

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his classes at Harvard Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls the debates at the Harvard Law Review

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. remembers his early legal career

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls being the first black clerk to a U.S. Supreme Court justice

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. remembers his clerkship under Felix Frankfurter

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes Justice Felix Frankfurter

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes the United States Supreme Court

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. remembers segregation in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his position at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls his experience at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls working on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Mr. William Coleman, Jr. reflects upon his involvement in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes the research for Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls the attorneys involved in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes the roles involved in winning a legal case

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes the cases consolidated into Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls the arguments of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his relationship with Thurgood Marshall

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes the impact of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about the language of deliberate speed in integration

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls being hired at Dilworth, Paxon, Kalish, and Levy

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. remembers Dilworth, Paxon, Kalish and Levy

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his clients at Dilworth, Paxon, Kalish, Levy and Coleman

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - William T. Coleman, Jr. remembers the Girard College desegregation case

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about his corporate board involvement

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his casework at Dilworth, Paxson, Kalish and Levy

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his role in the Warren Commission, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his role in the Warren Commission, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls Thurgood Marshall's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about the Watergate Scandal

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about his wife

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his appointment to the Department of Transportation

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about President Richard Milhous Nixon

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about President Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr.

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his leadership of the U.S. Department of Transportation

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls the busing crisis in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his aspirations as U.S. Secretary of the Department of Transportation

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. recalls joining the board of International Business Machines Corporation

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. remembers joining O'Melveny and Meyers LLP

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes the clients and counsel at O'Melveny and Meyers LLP

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about law firm branches in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his career at O'Melveny and Meyers LLP

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about the impact of globalization on law

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes the importance of business education for lawyers, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about legal education

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes the importance of business education for lawyers, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about education in the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. reflects upon integration

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about President William Jefferson Clinton

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his children

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about his autobiography

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. reflects upon his legacy and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$6

DAStory

1$6

DATitle
Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. describes his early aspiration to become a lawyer
Mr. William T. Coleman, Jr. talks about the language of deliberate speed in integration
Transcript
I also read that you knew very early that you wanted to be a lawyer and you would, you know, sneak into courtrooms. Is that--what age was that?$$Oh, I, well, what it, what it was, or maybe about in the 1st of December they'd be two or three evening conversations between my mother [Laura Mason Coleman] and father [William T. Coleman, Sr.] as how much they could spend for Christmas. And, they finally would agree upon a certain amount and then my mother would say, "Well, tomorrow why don't you all meet me in town?" You know, we have to go in town to shop. And, my sister [Emma Coleman Dooley], when we got downtown would say, "Well, why don't you shop for me first? Because I could then take the trolley, go home and get dinner for you." And, I certainly didn't wanna stay around watching girls try on clothes and things like that. So, I'd go outside. But, it's cold as hell outside in '47 [1947]. So, and the city hall [Philadelphia City Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] was right across the street. And, I went in there and I went up to the fourth floor. And, they were arguing the case of Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Well, I went down the courtroom and I saw that. And, I said, when I went home I said, "People get paid just for talking (laughter)," and so that gave me some interest. And, then I also had heard about, by that time, Charlie Houston [Charles Hamilton Houston], and Bill Hastie [William H. Hastie] and I knew Raymond Pace Alexander, and I thought that's clear. I also thought maybe I should be a doctor. But, when I was sixteen or seventeen and the doctor at the camp [Camp Emlen, Norwood, Pennsylvania] took me to see an operation on cancer of the guts so I figured that wasn't for me. So, I, so I, therefore, became a lawyer.$$Now, what, what age were you though, when you went over and, you know, went into your first courtroom? Do you remember what--?$$Oh, I couldn't've been, I'm probably about twelve or thirteen years of age, yeah.$$Can you just describe what, what that courtroom sort of felt, you know, like--?$$When I saw it, there was, what nine or seven people sitting on the bench. And, I remember one case, may not have been the first day, where the judge or the justice asked the lawyer about a certain case and he said, "Oh, judge, I don't know about that case we just decided it about a month ago." And, so, thereafter it really developed me to have it whenever I go into court. I always read the late, the late cases because I don't want anybody to, you know, tell me. But, it was, you know, we had a good time. I mean, I just--I enjoyed being a kid and we got exposed to a lot of thing. And, there was a, you know, a lot happening in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania].$You know, there'd been a lot of discussion about the, you know, the ruling [Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954] in all deliberate, you know, with the ta- the line, "In all deliberate speed," you know. Do you think you understood that at the time? Whether you think there was great understanding of--?$$Well, there were, there was, there was great, there was great misunderstanding. And, what all deliberate speed meant because, what, it's 19--2006 now, and a lot of school are desegregated so, you know, and it was tough. And, obviously they--we did have two opinions. One was the Morton Salt case [United States v. Morton Salt Co., 1950] which says clearly that if somebody violates the law you have the right to make 'em end it immediately and the state could also make the violator do things which otherwise the violator wouldn't have to do. And, so, that's, so that, that was it and I had made a proposal to the, to Marshall [Thurgood Marshall] to handle the matter differently which he didn't follow. But, at the end of which I agree with what he did. But, I thought that if, if we had done something else, we'd probably could've done a little better than we did.$$Now, what was your, what was your--?$$Well, my provision was, was to say that you've said that this is illegal. Two, you gotta recognize that the life of a child for schooling is from the, is twelve years. I did not put kindergarten in 'cause I've always been suspicious of thirteen; so, I--twelve years. And, what you should do is go to court and tell the court that the governor of the state and/or the attorney general can, have to file a plan and it could start in the twelfth grade and desegregate downward. Or, it could start in the first grade descend upward, or if it would say, we'll start at the twelfth and first grade, you give 'em an extra year and leave it up to them to do it. Well, if you'd done that and then if the governor and the attorney general has to be the done to make the decision, that they will have made a difference. But, you know, we, people, everybody in the firm said, you can't do that 'cause you can't admit that once it's a violation that people can take their time to end it. And, so, as a result of that, we got what we got, which I don't think it certainly has not be as effective as it should be.$$Right. Because there was no time period or ways (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) No time period. And, nothing ever got done and you didn't, you know, recognize the real problems which is the, is, as--oh, I lost the case four to four so I can't say anything. But, in the Richmond school case [School Board of the City of Richmond v. State Board of Education of Virginia, 1973] where the judge below said that you can't desegregate these schools only by using Richmond [Virginia]. And, you have to bring in the force around the county and the court, hell no, you can't make 'em do that. Or, the San Antonio case [San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 1973] where Marshall filed a dissent. He lost it six to three. That if you have, or you did in parts of Texas, a school district which was so poor that it couldn't afford it, that the state would have to have another taxing plan so that school districts have enough money. If you've been able to get those two things through, I think that we would've probably been better off than we are today.$$But, that, that, okay. Because really what it, what it left to was doing things legislatively on the state level?$$Yeah. Yeah (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Right. And, doing cases, keep continue to do cases--$$Yeah. Yeah. But, if you've given them some incentive, you know, something. When you catch a guy doing wrong, if you say, well, if you decide to cooperate with me, I'll give you extra time. That's tends to appeal, you know. Or, you tell a guy, if you did something wrong if you don't plead guilty, I'm gonna give you twenty years. But, if you plead guilty so you could testify against somebody else, I'll give you five years. A lot of people would take the five. Even if nobody wants to go to jail for five--and I just think that psychologically that we never got that into the process.