'Whom Shall I Send? Send Me!'
Professor Charles Ogletree on the life and legacy of the late civil rights lawyer John Payton.
Charles Ogletree and Henry Louis Gates Jr.
You could not have found a better partner than Gay. Her work in moving the justice agenda to a global level is inspiring and comforting. I remember her unprecedented work in pursuing the end of apartheid in South Africa, including receiving the election ballot from then citizen and soon after President Nelson Mandela, in the first democratic election held in that country. It is no wonder that she received the MacArthur "Genius" award for her humanitarian work, and that you both served as domestic and global ambassadors for justice and democracy.
John, as I think about your incredible work, I'm reminded of a Scripture in the sixth chapter of Isaiah, the eighth verse, in the Holy Bible that says: "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!' "
Those words remind me of you. Always responding to the call of duty. Taking on any task, no matter how difficult, thinking ahead and seeking to discover the next battleground and already having a plan of action in mind. For the last few months, I watched in awe as you followed the Fisher case through the circuit court, and the recent decision of the Supreme Court to hear the case. It was the penultimate challenge to your successful work in the Gratz and Grutter cases on affirmation action. You were preparing for that case with the meticulous detail that I have seen in everything you do. Coming almost 10 years after Gratz and Grutter, you were ready to continue to fight to preserve the right of institutions of higher education to keep their doors open to a diverse student body.
I promise you that we will continue this struggle in your honor. You can say, as the apostle Paul said, after being jailed and constantly challenged as he kept his convictions, "I have fought the good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith." You have, too, my brother, and we are grateful for it.
Charles J. Ogletree Jr. is the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice.