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Distinguished Roster Helped NCBA Commemorate Brown v. Board

Distinguished Roster Helped NCBA Commemorate Brown v. Board

The North Carolina Bar Association’s long-awaited commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education was, by all accounts, a tremendous success.

From the opening bell on Thursday morning, May 20, at the N.C. Bar Center to the final gavel Friday evening, May 21, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Cary, the ambitious agenda of programming and presentations lived up to all expectations.

Judge James Wynn of the N.C. Court of Appeals, who chaired the Brown v. Board of Education Committee, said the proceedings only served to uphold his conviction that the NCBA’s commemorative event was among the very best of the countless Brown v. Board events taking place nationwide.

NCBA President and 4thU.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Allyson K. Duncan carried her colleague’s praise a step further in describing the event as the best in the land.

And, their robes notwithstanding, who could argue with them? At every turn and every venue, distinguished speakers around whom entire events are often planned filled the program. Attendance and participation were exceptional on both days, highlighted by an audience of some 500 who attended Friday’s daytime segment at the McKimmon Center on the campus of N.C. State University.

Strong showings were also evident for Thursday’s daylong CLE program at the N.C. Bar Center, conducted by the NCBA Constitutional Rights and Responsibilities Section, in conjunction with the Legal Assistants Division, and Friday evening’s celebration dinner at the Embassy Suites featuring the Brown sisters, Linda Brown Thompson and Cheryl Brown Henderson.

Even matters as oft-times routine as introductions and acceptance speeches were noteworthy. Keith Vaughan, managing member of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, paid tribute to firm founder Irving Carlyle and the lawyers who made Brown v. Board possible in his moving introduction of the Brown sisters.

Earlier, former Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. gave a rousing speech in support of education while accepting one of four Presidential Awards presented Friday by Judge Duncan. Equally impressive were remarks from fellow recipients John Hope Franklin, the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus at Duke University, Wake County Schools Superintendent Bill McNeal and Julius Chambers, the Charlotte civil rights attorney who argued and won a number of school desegregation cases in post-Brown North Carolina.

Judges Wynn and Duncan provided welcoming statements and introductions to open Friday’s program, followed by an Introduction to Brown.

Presenters were professors Charles Daye of the UNC School of Law, Jack Boger of the UNC Center for Civil Rights which co-sponsored the event, Gena Rae McNeill (UNC), Jack Bass of the University of Mississippi (retired) and Raleigh attorney Don Cowan, past president of the NCBA.

A splendid re-argument of Brown followed, featuring Charlotte attorney James Ferguson II who appeared on behalf of the plaintiffs and Professor Wendy Parker of the Wake Forest University School of Law who represented the defendant. N.C. Supreme Court Justice Mark Martin provided the introductory statement.

Judge Diana Gribbon Motz of the 4thU.S. Circuit Court of Appeals served as chief justice. Serving as justices were be Judges Ann Claire Williams of the 7thU.S. Circuit Court; Roger Gregory and Duncan of the 4thU.S. Circuit Court; and former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justices Rhoda Billings, James G. Exum and Henry Frye.

Professor Jack Greenberg of Columbia Law School, who participated in the oral argument of Brown as a young attorney serving with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was the featured luncheon speaker. Professor Franklin and Gov. Hunt were recognized at this event.

The daytime program concluded with a lively panel discussion moderated by Bill Friday, former president of the consolidated UNC system. The panelists were Julius Chambers, former chancellor of North Carolina Central University; former Gov. Hunt; Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr.; Wake County Schools Superintendent Bill McNeal; Dean Gene Nichol of the UNC School of Law; Annie Brown Kennedy, the first African-American woman to serve in the General Assembly, and Justice Martin.

The evening event included welcoming remarks and introductions from Elizabeth L. “Betty” Quick, vice chair of the Brown v. Board Committee and a past president of the NCBA.

Presidential Awards were presented at the dinner to Superintendent McNeal, the 2004 American Association of School Administrators’ Superintendent of the Year, and Dr. Chambers.

Susan Giamportone, who chairs the NCBA Lawyers in the Schools Committee, presented Brown v. Board Essay Contest awards to winners Laura Tabor (9th-10thgrades) of Cary High School and Joseph Berger (11th-12thgrades) of Lejeune High School.

Remarks from the Brown sisters followed, bringing the splendid two-day observance to a close.

The Brown v. Board festivities officially began Thursday at the Bar Center with the daylong CLE, Multiculturalism: Brown v. Board to Moussaoui, and the annual meetings of the Legal Assistants Division (LAD) and the Constitutional Rights and Responsibilities Section. Mark Prak served as section chair this year while Grace Carter chaired the LAD.

The joint CLE presentation began with a video, “The Road to Brown,” and follow-up discussion led by N.C. Superior Court Judge Howard Manning.

Next on the agenda was a panel discussion: The Attorney and Paralegal Roles in Diversity Issues in the Workplace. Judge Martha Geer of the N.C. Court of Appeals moderated a panel consisting of Carol Brooke of the N.C. Justice and Community Development Center, Gayle Mozee΄ of Los Angeles and Raleigh attorney Stephen Smalley.

Following lunch and annual meetings, which included an address to the LAD from NCBA President-Elect Gray Wilson, breakout sessions were conducted by each group. Mozee΄ presented a motivational program, Moving Up the Invisible Career Ladder, to the LAD.

The Constitutional Rights and Responsibilities Section conducted a panel discussion, Brown’s Impact on Litigation Theories, Strategies and Remedies: Is the Pendulum Swinging Back? Marshall Dayan of the North Carolina Central University School of Law moderated the panel, joined by UNC professors Jack Boger and John Connelly, Charlotte attorneys Luke Largess and Kevin Parsons and Chapel Hill attorney Adam Stein.

The proceedings concluded with general sessions devoted to Multiculturalism and the Struggle with Racial Profiling, led by ACLU Foundation staff attorney Reginald Shuford of Brooklyn, and Representing Zacarias Moussaoui, led by his counsel, Assistant Federal Public Defender Gerald Zerkin of Richmond, Va.