(Extensions of Remarks - December 18, 1998)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E2346-E2347]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                           HON. MAXINE WATERS

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                       Friday, December 18, 1998

  Ms. WATERS. Mr. Speaker, I am deeply saddened to bring to my 
colleagues' attention the death of my good friend, Judge A. Leon 
Higginbotham on Monday, December 14, 1998. Judge Higginbotham was one 
of the ``true giants'' of the civil rights struggle. Judge Higginbotham 
was a leading legal scholar, author, historian and professor in 
addition to his stellar twenty-nine year career on the federal bench.
  Judge Higginbotham believed that the law was the vehicle to right the 
wrongs he experienced growing up under segregation. According to 
stories that Judge Higginbotham often recounted, the President of 
Purdue University flatly told him in his freshman year of college that 
the school was not required under law to provide black students with 
heated dormitories and, therefore, never would. The Judge said that 
particular experience persuaded him to become a lawyer.
  Judge Higginbotham was committed to a practice of law which he viewed 
as a commitment to social justice. He held deep convictions and 
continually fought for the underdog. He argued for justice and 
fairness. Judge Higginbotham was a friend to members of the 
Congressional Black Caucus. He was always available with an analysis of 
the issue that only he could articulate. Judge Higginbotham helped us 
with many projects after his retirement from the bench. The most 
notable was his preparation of an amicus brief in the voting rights 
case Shaw vs. Reno.
  Judge Higginbotham was a frequent witness here on Capitol Hill. His 
most recent testimony was two weeks ago, Tuesday, December 1, 1998, in 
front of the House Judiciary Committee. As he often did, Judge 
Higginbotham provided clear, insightful testimony. In his opening 
statement, he asked the Members to listen to ``Luther Standing Bear, a 
member of the Lakota Tribe, who said, `Thought comes before speech' 
when dealing with one of the most important constitutional issues which 
this committee will ever have, to pause and to give thought before you 
speak and before you vote,'' truer words have never been spoken. ``I am 
pleased to have broken protocol at the end of Judge Higginbotham's 
opening statement to give him a rousing round of applause. Who would 
have thought this would be the last time I would see this great man 
  Recently Judge Higginbotham has stated that he felt many of the 
advances he had applauded over his long legal career were endangered by 
the cutbacks in affirmative action and reduced opportunities for black 
lawyers and judges. He further stated in an article in The New York 
Times Magazine, ``I witnessed the birth of racial justice in the 
Supreme Court and here now, after 45 years as a lawyer, judge and law 
professor, I sometimes feel as if I am watching justice die.''
  When I read today that Judge Higginbotham's first meeting with former 
Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall was during the ominous Sweatt 
vs. Paine Supreme Court case, I realized his previous statement was 
hauntingly true. The 1950 case was whether the court should compel the 
state of Texas to admit a black student to the University of Texas Law 
School. The 1995 Supreme Court case, Hopwood vs. State of Texas, was 
about a white student suing the University of Texas Law School for 
admission above their affirmative action rules. It scares me, as it 
scared Judge Higginbotham to see this happen right before my eyes.
  I have long been a proponent of affirmative action, but I am even 
more resolute in my fight to ensure the continuation of affirmative 
action to make Judge A. Leon Higginbotham's legacy is never abandoned. 
We cannot sit idly by and allow affirmative action in the United States 

[[Page E2347]]

be erased. Judge A. Leon Higginbotham's legacy is too important.