Civil Rights Hero Robert Carter Dead at 94

Newark Star-Ledger
Newark Star-Ledger

One of the lawyers who helped argue the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education has died. Robert Carter died Tuesday in New York from complications of a stroke. He was 94 years old.


The former federal judge, who grew up in New Jersey, was part of the NAACP team led by Thurgood Marshall that helped end legalized school segregation. He attended Lincoln University, Howard University School of Law and then Columbia University for an advanced legal degree.

After his education, he entered the U.S. Army, where his experiences with racial prejudice inspired his determination to fight for equality, his son John Carter told the Associated Press. "He was always a fighter," his son said. "I saw through him the kind of progress that one could make in fighting evil through law."

Carter played a huge role in Brown v. Board of Education: He argued one of the five desegregation cases consolidated for argument before the nation's highest court, according to former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey. "It is a commonly mistaken fact that Thurgood Marshall argued Brown," Harvey told the Associated Press. "It was Robert Carter who first tried Brown vs. the Board of Education in Topeka. He also argued the case before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. And he argued it before the Supreme Court."

NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said that Carter's legal philosophy has "defined the NAACP for decades. "He believed in equality not only in the public school system, but in every institution across this country," he said in a statement. "His long-term vision and tremendous success in the courtroom made him a legendary figure in the Association and in the nation as a whole."

President Richard Nixon nominated Carter to become a federal judge for the Southern District of New York in 1972. He also oversaw the merger of the National Basketball Association and American Basketball Association.

A building in Trenton, N.J., that houses the Department of Education is dedicated to Carter. He is survived by his two sons.


Read more at the Newark Star-Ledger.