Charles Hamilton Houston – Biography

Charles Houston, ca. 1940. Gelatin silver print. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (068.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
Digital ID # cph-3c31020

Charles Hamilton Houston (1895–1950) was the chief strategist of the NAACP’s legal campaign that culminated in the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Born in Washington, D.C., he graduate from Amherst College in 1915. In 1923 he became the first African American to earn a Doctor of Juridical Science degree at Harvard, where he studied under Felix Frankfurter. Houston intermittently practiced law as a partner in Houston and Houston, the prestigious firm his father founded in 1892.

In 1924, he joined the faculty of Howard University Law School and was appointed vice dean in 1929.  By 1932 he had transformed the law school from a part-time evening school to a fully accredited institution that trained a cadre of civil rights attorneys.  In 1935 the NAACP hired Houston as its first salaried Special Counsel and created the Legal Department under his supervision.  Although he returned to private practice in 1938, Houston continued to advise the NAACP until his death on April 22, 1950.


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