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Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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Amicus Curiae Returning to Campus

Judge Richard Gergel
Courtesy of The New York Times
Judge Richard Gergel

The United States’ Civil Rights Movement is the topic of an upcoming lecture on campus this week.

The Amicus Curiae Lecture Series on Constitutional Democracy will hold its first event of the semester on Thursday, Feb. 22, with the presentation, “The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Igniting of the Modern Civil Rights Movement,” by speaker Judge Richard Gergel.

Following a nomination from former U.S. President Barack Obama, Gergel now serves as a federal judge at the J. Waties Waring Federal Judicial Center in South Carolina. He earned his undergraduate degree, as well as his law degree, from Duke University.

Patricia Proctor, professor and founding director of the Simon Perry Center for Constitutional Democracy, said the parallels present in the movement’s story are particularly interesting. 

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“Judge Gergel’s excellent book describes how this terrible event led President Harry S. Truman to create the first presidential commission on civil rights and ultimately to desegregate the U.S. military by executive order,” she said. “It also tells how the federal government stepped in to prosecute a heinous crime when local authorities wouldn’t and the impact of the resulting trial on a South Carolina federal judge who became a champion of civil rights. So, the story has many facets, each of which is compelling in its own right, and several of which involve well-known Americans who impacted our civil rights trajectory.”

Proctor went on to say that Gergel’s appearance on campus—as well as his experience and background—is profound. 

“It is such an honor to have Judge Gergel come to Marshall,” Proctor said. “He has lectured all over the country, including at Harvard Law School, been interviewed by major media outlets and written a highly-regarded and well-reviewed book that is so interesting that it inspired a PBS American Experience documentary.”

She went on to say, “I am very hopeful we will have a great turnout for this important lecture.” 

The lecture, which is sponsored by the Simon Perry Center and the West Virginia Humanities Council, will begin at 7 p.m. in the Brad D. Smith Foundation Hall.

A book signing will follow the presentation.

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