Jack Greenberg (lawyer)

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Jack Greenberg
Born (1924-12-22)December 22, 1924
Brooklyn, New York
Alma mater
Notable awards Presidential Citizens Medal

Jack Greenberg (born December 22, 1924) is an American attorney and legal scholar. He was the Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 1961 to 1984, succeeding Thurgood Marshall.[1]

He was involved in numerous crucial cases, including Brown v. Board of Education.[1][2] In all, he has argued 40 civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.[3]

He is Alphonse Fletcher Jr. Professor of Law Emeritus at Columbia Law School,[4] and has previously served as dean of Columbia College and vice dean of Columbia Law School.[5]

Early life

Greenberg was born into a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York on December 22, 1924.[6][7][8]

Naval service

Greenberg is a United States Navy veteran. He fought at Okinawa and Iwo Jima during World War II.[9] Greenberg commanded a landing craft in the invasion of Iheya Shima.[10]


Greenberg graduated from Columbia College in 1945, and Columbia Law School in 1948.[4]


Civil and human rights lawyer

Greenberg became the only white legal counselor for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund ("LDF") in 1949, and, in 1961, succeeded Thurgood Marshall as LDF's Director-Counsel.

Greenberg recalled his earliest arguments before the Supreme Court, saying:

"It was like a religious experience; the first few times I was there I was full of awe. I had an almost tactile feeling. The first time I was in the Court, I wasn't arguing. I felt as if I were in a synagogue, and reached to see whether or not I had a yarmulke on. I thought I ought to have one on."[11]

In addition to arguing Brown v. Board of Education as co-counsel with Thurgood Marshall,[12] other cases Greenberg argued include Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, which ordered the end of segregated school systems "at once," and Griggs v. Duke Power Company,[13] which outlawed basing employment and promotion decisions on the results of tests with a discriminatory impact. He also argued Furman v. Georgia (1972),[14][15] in which the Court held that the death penalty as it was then applied was a violation of the "cruel and unusual punishment" clause of the Eighth Amendment.

Greenberg is a founding member of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and of Human Rights Watch.[16][17]


Greenberg was an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School from 1970–84, a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School in 1971, and a visiting professor at College of the City of New York in 1977.

In 1982, he was appointed to co-teach Julius L. Chambers' class on race law at Harvard Law School. The university declined to replace Greenberg with a black professor, so black students boycotted the class.[18] When asked if he was frightened to pass through a group of protesters on his way to class the first day, Greenberg said, "No, I was on the beach at Iwo Jima."[19]

Greenberg left LDF in 1984 to become a professor and Vice Dean at Columbia Law School. He served as Dean of Columbia College from 1989 to 1993.[4] Greenberg's teaching interests include constitutional law, civil rights, and human rights law, civil procedure, "Kafka and the Law", and South Africa's post-apartheid constitution. As of fall 2013, Greenberg still taught at Columbia Law School, and served as a senior director of LDF.

He was also a distinguished visiting professor at University of Tokyo Faculty of Law in 1993-94 and at St. Louis University Law School in 1994, and a visiting professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in 1994 and 1996, at Princeton University in 1995, at the University of Munich in 1998, at Tokyo University in 1996 and 1998, at the University of Nuremberg-Erlangen in 1999-2000, and at Hebrew University in 2005.


Greenberg has varied intellectual interests: aside from several books on law and civil rights, including Crusaders in the Courts,[20] he has written a cookbook (Dean Cuisine, with Harvard Law School Dean James Vorenberg, 1990),[21] and appeared as a panelist for a New York Times tasting of Oregon pinot noir. He also edited Franz Kafka: The Office Writings (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008) with two other scholars.[22]

Awards and honors

Publications (selected list)

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Teaching With Documents: Documents Related to Brown v. Board of Education. Biographies of Attorneys and Litigants: Brown v. Board of Education. National Archives. Accessed February 10, 2010
  2. 'Brown' Lawyer Jack Greenberg. National Public Radio, May 17, 2004
  3. The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law, bios of speakers. Open Society Institute and Soros Foundation Network. Accessed February 10, 2010
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Faculty profile, Columbia Law School (accessed January 3, 2016).
  5. 5.0 5.1 Professor Jack Greenberg ’48 and Jeh Johnson '82 Win Wien Prize, Columbia Law School press release, Columbia University, December 2, 2009. Accessed February 10, 2010
  6. http://www.naacpldf.org/jack-greenberg-biography
  7. Jack Greenberg bio. Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Accessed February 10, 2010
  8. Profiles in humanity: the battle for peace, freedom, equality, and human rights, Warren I. Cohen, Rowman & Littlefield, 2009, ISBN 0-7425-6701-X, accessed February 10, 2010
  9. 9.0 9.1 Crusader for Justice: Professor Jack Greenberg '48 Honored for Lifetime of Advocacy, Columbia Law School (January 31, 2014) (press release).
  10. Michael Meltsner, The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer (University of Virginia Press: 2007), p. 92.
  11. Lehrer, Jeremy, "Jack Greenberg, a legend of the civil rights era, discusses the past and present of the civil rights movement", ABAnet.org, Fall 1997, accessed February 9, 2010
  12. "Jack Greenberg", Huffington Post, accessed February 9, 2010
  13. [1]
  14. Rebecca Stefoff, Furman V. Georgia: Debating the Death Penalty. Marshall Cavendish, 2007, ISBN 0-7614-2583-7; p. 79
  15. Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972). Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. Accessed February 10, 2010
  16. 16.0 16.1 Charter Day 2004 Honorary Degree Recipients. Howard University. Accessed February 10, 2010
  17. JACK GREENBERG bio, THE FORUM ON LAW, CULTURE & SOCIETY AT FORDHAM LAW SCHOOL, Fordham University. Accessed December 23, 2015.
  18. Delgado, Richard (2009). "Liberal McCarthyism and the Origins of Critical Race Theory" (PDF). Iowa Law Review. 94: 1511–12. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 3, 2010. Retrieved July 28, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Haberman, Clyde (April 13, 2004). "Soldiering on, a half-century after Brown". The New York Times. Retrieved July 28, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Jack Greenberg, Crusaders in the courts : how a dedicated band of lawyers fought for the civil rights revolution. BasicBooks, New York, 1994. ISBN 0-465-01518-2
  21. Jack Greenberg, and James Vorenberg, Dean Cuisine. Sheep Meadow Press, 1990. ISBN 0-935296-99-9
  22. Franz Kafka: The Office Writings. Edited by Stanley Corngold, Jack Greenberg and Benno Wagner. Princeton University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-691-12680-7
  23. Beyond the Call Of Civic Duty; Clinton Cites 28 Extraordinary Citizens. Washington Post, January 9, 2001.
  24. President Clinton Awards the Presidential Citizens Medals. White House press release. January 8, 2001
  25. List of members by class and section. American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Accessed February 10, 2010
  26. Thurgood Marshall Award. History of Award and Past Recipients. American Bar Association. Accessed February 10, 2010
  27. ND will award 13 honorary degrees at commencement. The Observer, April 21, 2005. Accessed February 10, 2010

External links

Preceded by
Robert Pollack
Dean of Columbia College
Succeeded by
Steven Marcus