Civil rights attorney Jack Greenberg was one of twenty-eight Americans awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton on this date in 2001. Greenberg succeeded Thurgood Marshall as director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a position in which he served from 1961 to 1984, and also founded the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1968. Greenberg has argued “40 civil rights cases before the United States Supreme Court,” the citation said, “including the historic Brown v. Board of Education,” and thereby “helped break down the legal underpinnings of segregation in America.” Since 1984, Greenberg has been a professor at the Columbia Law School, where he established a human rights internship program. He is also a founding member of Human Rights Watch and has consulted on human rights in countries throughout the world. His several books include Crusaders in the Courts: How a Dedicated Band of Lawyers Fought for the Civil Rights Revolution (1994) and several other civil rights volumes, as well as a cookbook, The Liberated Man’s Guide to Fine Cooking (with James Vorenberg, 1991).
“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.” —Jack Greenberg