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When Louis L. Redding was admitted to the Delaware bar in 1929, the most persistent legal adversary the state’s first African-American lawyer faced was Jim Crow. Jim Crow — the name symbolizing the customs and laws of racial segregation — was everywhere. It was there in juries, where African-Americans were barred from serving. It was there in laws like the one prohibiting interracial marriages. It was there even in tax collections, where the government went so far as to print tax forms in separate colors. In an Atlanta office building with four elevators, black workers were relegated to just one elevator for riding up, but for some forgotten reason, they were allowed on all of them going down. Maybe it had something to do with a widespread white belief that there were two heavens to ascend to but only one common hell for the races to descend to. This was Redding’s time, the way it was described by Leland Ware when he delivered his inaugural lecture Monday, Oct. 30, as the first professor to occupy the University of Delaware’s Louis L. Redding Chair for the Study of Law and Public Policy. Previously a law professor at Saint Louis University, Ware came to the Newark, Del., campus this September, the beginning of the academic year, bringing along a considerable background in civil rights with a mission to extend Redding’s legacy as a legal architect for equal justice. Redding’s battles with Jim Crow are legendary. As Ware recounted in his lecture, Redding was part of a small phalanx of lawyers who banded together through the NAACP’s legal committee, believing they could attack segregation through a concerted strategy of litigation that would make it collapse under its own weight. It worked. “His cases altered the fundamental principles of constitutional jurisprudence and touched the lives of every American,” Ware said. “The work that Louis Redding began more than 70 years ago is far from over. There is much that remains to be done. The chair represents a fitting testament to Redding’s many accomplishments. It is our obligation, as the beneficiaries of Redding’s efforts, to continue to work for the realization of Mr. Redding’s vision of a just and fair society.” Ware delivered his lecture to about 250 people, and it was no easy task, considering that he was a newcomer in Delaware, and a number in the audience personally knew Redding, who died in 1998 at the age of 96. Still, his listeners regarded Ware and the Redding Chair as fairly launched. “Leland Ware’s inaugural lecture was outstanding. Not only did he put many of Mr. Redding’s accomplishments in the appropriate historical context, but he illustrated quite effectively just how much still needs to be done today to eliminate racial bias by referring to his own experiences as an African American,” said James H. Gilliam Jr., a longtime family friend of Redding’s and a leading member of the Delaware State Bar Association. “I don’t think there is any question but that Leland Ware is exactly the right person for the Redding Chair.” Edmund N. “Ned” Carpenter II, a former bar association president, said he was impressed not only by Ware’s lecture, but by the presence in the audience of Delawareans from many different backgrounds. “It was a great crowd. Leland Ware is well-positioned to deliver a lot,” Carpenter said. Carpenter became linked with Redding by successfully defending him against tax charges believed to be lodged as a backlash to Redding’s groundbreaking civil rights work in the 1950s. Redding brought the lawsuit that led to the integration of the University of Delaware. He also filed the cases that became the basis for the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the school integration opinion that overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine. Both Gilliam and Carpenter were part of a group of Delaware lawyers who helped to endow the Redding Chair. Other key participants were Victor F. Battaglia Sr., Joshua W. Martin III, Stacey J. Mobley and Irving Morris. Ware said the Redding Chair will be a resource for engaging the academic community and the general public in matters of social justice. He said he hoped to be able to draw together lawyers, who frequently have too little time to reflect because of deadline pressures, and academics, who can have the opposite problem — too much of a preoccupation with abstractions. “His cases altered the fundamental principles of constitutional jurisprudence and touched the lives of every American,” Leland Ware said of Louis Redding.

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