The Civil War was long over. Industrialists had supplanted generals as national heroes. The accumulation of wealth and the inviolate protection of property were celebrated by the rich and famous, on and off the bench. Social Darwinism was the new Battle Hymn of the Republic. So the last time the century was preparing to turn, the president of the American Bar Association looked across all of creation and pronounced himself satisfied: “Under our system, the gates and avenues . . . are open to all who will run the course,” declared James Woolworth in 1897. “There is no favor for any, and the best wins.” To see how far we’ve come, we often have to be reminded of where we started. A century later, that bit of 19th century triumphalism rings truer – thanks in large measure to the work of the great lawyers we celebrate in this issue. We have experienced nothing short of a legal – and peaceful – revolution. Blacks, women, workers – consumers and merchants, investors and corporations, and the young and the old now enjoy legal protections and rights that were not in place when Woolworth declared the playing field level and the race only to the swift.

The story of that legal revolution – actually legal revolutions – is at the core of this issue. We tell it through the lives and careers of great lawyers, rather than through a bloodless recitation of big ideas whose times had more or less arrived.