"I lived through Brown v. Board of Education", said The Honorable Terry J. Hatter, Jr., Senior United States District Judge (Chief Judge Emeritus) Central California District. Judge Hatter was in Altadena recently to introduce a filmed re-enactment of the oral argument in the historic 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision. The Altadena Library sponsored the event at the Senior Center next door.
The film relies solely on the power of words, no historic photos or news footage added. Real lawyers and judges take part in the re-enactment.
Some people in the crowd were old enough to remember the original case. Judge Hatter said he was glad to see some young people in the audience, too. The Honorable Jurist appears in the film.
"One of the great frustrations in my life is that young people, of all races, have no connection to recent history," the long-time jurist told the crowd. "They need to know on whose shoulders they stand." He continued, "Most young people think of segregation as only in the South. The early minorities in California were Chinese and Japanese," Judge Hatter said. These major Asian groups faced discrimination in the state.
Judge Hatter graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, just two weeks after the Brown decision. And, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren was the speaker at his commencement.
"Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other 'tangible' factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does," wrote Chief Justice Warren in the Brown v. Broad of Education decision.
However, Judge Hatter, a third-generation lawyer, laments the current state of education. Sadly, he said, he sees "bad grammar in legal briefs."
The DVD of the Brown case re-enactment will be available in the Altadena Library around March 15th.
It runs two-hours plus.
[Reva Hicks, freelance writer in Los Angeles. She worked for more than 30 years at Channel 4 News.]