Event Exploring Legacy of Shelley v. Kraemer and Margaret Bush Wilson to Feature Civil Rights Lawyer Theodore M. Shaw

Sixty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court—in a unanimous decision—ruled that housing covenants restricting home ownership based on race violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. The case was Shelley v. Kraemer. In the short term, the landmark decision meant the Shelley family could purchase a home and live in St. Louis’s Lewis Place neighborhood, just north of the Central West End. But in the long term, it meant justice for countless African American, Jewish, and other minority families seeking the American Dream of home ownership—in neighborhoods of their choosing. 

Leading the charge in that historic 1948 case was Margaret Bush Wilson, an African American lawyer and civil rights activist, and the law firm she had formed with her husband, Robert Wilson, in 1946. The second woman of color to practice law in Missouri, Wilson served as president of both the St. Louis NAACP and the Missouri NAACP. During her presidency, the NAACP won several civil rights cases, including the Rankin Trade School case and the Jefferson Bank case. In 1975, she became president of the national NAACP and would go on to serve nine terms as the first woman to chair the organization. Wilson also was a trustee emeritae of Washington University and Webster University, and she has a named chair in her honor in Washington University Arts & Sciences. In 1978, she received an Honorary Degree in Laws from the university, making her an honorary alumna.

On October 22 at 4 p.m., Margaret Bush Wilson’s legacy will be explored in a 1.0 credit CLE event, “Celebrating the 65th Anniversary of Shelley v. Kraemer and the Legacy of Margaret Bush Wilson: Where Are We Now?” Held in the Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom at Washington University School of Law (AB Hall, No. 310), the celebration will feature Theodore M. Shaw, professor of professional practice at Columbia University School of Law. The event is free and open to students, faculty, staff, and the community. 

Shaw is well known as one of the country’s top civil rights lawyers. For 23 years, he was an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, serving as assistant counsel and director of the Education Docket (1982-1987), Western Regional Director (1987-1990), associate director-counsel (1993-2004), and director-counsel and president (2004-2008). He began his legal career as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Shaw has argued numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals involving education, voting rights, housing discrimination, capital punishment, and other civil rights issues. 

Also speaking will be Kimberly Norwood, professor of law and affiliated professor of African & African American Studies at Washington University; John G. Baugh, the inaugural Margaret Bush Wilson Professor in Arts & Sciences and professor of African & African American Studies at the university; and Jared Boyd, vice president and CLE chair for the Mound City Bar Association. Rufus J. Tate, Jr., of the Tate Law Firm LLC will introduce Shaw, and Nicole Colbert-Botchway, president of the Mound City Bar Association, will provide closing remarks. A reception will follow in the law school’s Crowder Courtyard (AB Hall, No. 301), beginning at approximately 5:15 p.m. 

The event is part of Washington University School of Law’s 2013-14 Public Interest Law & Policy Speakers Series, and it is co-sponsored by The St. Louis City Chapter of the NAACP, the Mound City Bar Association, Husch Blackwell LLP, Thompson Coburn LLP, Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice LLC, the African & African American Studies Program, the American Constitution Society, and the Black Law Students Association. 

For more information, contact Karen Tokarz, Charles Nagel Professor of Public Interest Law & Public Service, and director, Negotiation & Dispute Resolution Program,  Washington University School of Law, tokarz@wulaw.wustl.edu, Office: 314.935.6414.