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There When We Needed Him

Wiley Austin Branton, Civil Rights Warrior

Judith Kilpatrick

Publication Year: 2007

Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall said of Wiley Austin Branton that he “devoted his entire life to fighting for his own people.” There When We Needed Him is the story of that fight, which began with Branton's being one of the first black students at the University of Arkansas Law School and which took him to the highest levels of business and government.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

Title Page, Copyright

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CONTENTS

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pp. v-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

Many people helped with locating and collecting information and documents about Wiley Branton’s life. My apologies to anyone I omit from the list. The most significant help came from the Branton family: Leo Branton Jr., Sterling Branton, and Julia Branton Jones (Wiley’s siblings); and his children...

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Introduction

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pp. ix-

When Wiley Branton agreed to represent a group of Little Rock, Arkansas, parents and their children to force the Little Rock public schools to integrate, he had no idea that the case would change his life. He was thirty-two years old, married, with five children. Branton had become a lawyer...

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1. Character-Building

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pp. 1-14

IN THE BEGINNING, Branton was lucky.When he was born in 1923, colored citizens1 comprised one-third of the population in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.2 It was a bustling, prosperous community, with a railroad center established during the late nineteenth century, a lumber industry, and other, smaller, businesses...

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2. Racism during World War II

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pp. 15-22

WILEY BRANTON MANAGED to attend about two years of classes at AM&N College before he was drafted into the U.S.Army in early 1943. At the time, he was managing the family taxi company,which was operating six cars and had nine employees. Branton must have been apprehensive about his...

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3. Citizen Activist

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pp. 23-36

UNLIKE MANY SERVICEMEN who found they liked the wider world they had seen in the service, Wiley Branton gladly returned to his hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He was ready to settle down. As was the case with most veterans, there had been many changes in his life. He had fallen in love for the first time and become engaged to a girl he met while he was posted in...

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4. Desegregating the University of Arkansas School of Law

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pp. 37-52

IN 1948,WHEN Branton and Silas Hunt planned their mission to desegregate the University of Arkansas School of Law and Governor Laney was attempting to avoid it, related activity was taking place at the university, which housed the only state-supported law school in the state. The university, founded in 1871, was located in the extreme northwest corner of the state, about...

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5. Arkansas Practice

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pp. 53-70

SOON AFTER HIS 1952 admission to practice, while he was still in his third year of law school, Branton received an invitation to join the Arkansas Bar Association.The Bar Association is a voluntary group that provides social, educational, and networking opportunities for its members. Knowing that the association was segregated, he asked one of his professors, Edwin Dunaway...

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6. The Little Rock “Crisis”

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pp. 71-82

AFTER ITS DECEMBER vote, the Little Rock chapter notified the national NAACP of its decision to sue the Little Rock School Board. On February 8, 1956, Branton filed a complaint on behalf of thirty-three Negro students who were barred from registering at white schools. It was titled Aaron v. Cooper.1 Since...

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7. Little Rock Continued

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pp. 83-96

TO BRANTON’S SURPRISE, Aaron v. Cooper was reactivated on January 20, 1958, halfway through the school year.The school board asked the district court for permission to suspend operation of its Phase Plan and to delay school integration for an indefinite period.1 Judge Davies had returned to North Dakota and the...

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8. The Voter Education Project

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pp. 97-108

ONE OF THE civil rights organizations that Branton joined during his Arkansas practice years was the Southern Regional Council. It is headquartered in Atlanta,Georgia,and was created in 1919 to collect and highlight statistics on various forms of racial discrimination, including those preventing Negroes from...

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9. Burrowing from Within

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pp. 109-120

WILEY BRANTON BEGAN working with Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey for the President’s Council on Equal Opportunity in April 1965,moving his family to Washington,D.C.,shortly thereafter.1 President Lyndon B. Johnson had asked Humphrey to review the federal government’s implementation...

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10. Last Gasp at Direct Action

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pp. 121-136

IN MOVING TO the United Planning Organization (UPO), Branton was entering a different world, one that provided him with a kind of challenge he had not faced before. All his life, he had taken advantage of the opportunities presented to him, following his goal of changing circumstances for black citizens. Branton...

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11. Private Practice Again: A Respite

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pp. 137-144

BRANTON LEFT THE ALA in August 1971. During the two years he was working with Reuther, however, the firm with which he had made a connection in 1969 had seen significant changes. One of the senior lawyers had been appointed to the bench. Another partner had died. Branton joined with the...

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12. Dean at Howard Law School

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pp. 145-156

HOWARD UNIVERSITY’S SCHOOL of Law had long occupied a place in Branton’s heart.A student of history, particularly of African American history, he knew quite a bit about the school’s past. Chartered by the federal government in 1869 to provide legal training for recently emancipated Negroes, it still received..

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13. Sidley & Austin

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pp. 157-166

ON SEPTEMBER 1, 1983, after more than five years as dean of Howard Law School, Branton joined the D.C. office of Sidley & Austin, a large Chicago law firm, as “Of Counsel.”1 His recruitment was considered a “major coup” in a long legal news article analyzing the 435-lawyer firm.2 His first contact with

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Epilogue

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pp. 167-170

WILEY BRANTON’S LIFE cannot be summed up easily. He was born with an interest in people. His grandmother’s teachings would have fallen on deaf ears without that trait. He also must have been deeply empathetic, with an ability...

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NOTES

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pp. 171-210

INDEX

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pp. 211-221

About the Author, Back Cover

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pp. 249-252


E-ISBN-13: 9781610754224
E-ISBN-10: 1610754220
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557288486
Print-ISBN-10: 1557288488

Page Count: 230
Illustrations: 25 photos
Publication Year: 2007

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Subject Headings

  • Branton, Wiley Austin, 1923-1988.
  • African American lawyers -- Arkansas -- Biography.
  • Civil rights movements -- Arkansas -- History -- 20th century.
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