You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

March 27: Anthony Lewis

March 26, 2015

11704802445261466269Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and columnist Anthony Lewis was born in New York on this date in 1927. He was especially known as an expert on the law, and covered both the U.S. Justice Department and the Supreme Court for the New York Times. Lewis’ articles, writes Adam Liptak in Lewis’ 2013 New York Times obituary, “were virtual tutorials about currents in legal thinking, written with ease and sweep and an ability to render complex matters accessible.” He thus transformed legal reporting from dull recitation of court procedures to meaningful analysis of trials’ meanings and implications. Despite his dedication to the First Amendment, Lewis opposed “shield laws” that protected journalists from having to name their sources. He was nevertheless a consistent liberal-centrist who gave strong support to the civil rights movement; it was Lewis who explained to the educated sector of America the constitutional principles behind such Supreme Court decisions as Brown v. Board of Education, which ended legal segregation in the schools. Lewis’ books included Gideon’s Trumpet (1964), an explanation of a 1963 Supreme Court case that determined the state’s obligation to provide sound counsel to indigent defendants; Portrait of a Decade: The Second American Revolution (1964); Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment (1991); and Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment (2010).

“Faith in reason was the foundation stone of the United States.” —Anthony Lewis