TITLE: Hugo Black of Alabama: How His Roots and Early Career Shaped the Great Champion of the Constitution
SPEAKER: Steve Suitts
EVENT DATE: 01/12/2006
RUNNING TIME: 77 minutes
Steve Suitts discussed his book "Hugo Black of Alabama: How His Roots and Early Career Shaped the Great Champion of the Constitution."The event was sponsored by the Library's John W. Kluge Center and the Supreme Court Historical Society.
Hugo Black, who served on the Supreme Court from 1937 to 1971, was one of America's most controversial justices. In Birmingham in the 1920s, he became a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Decades later, as a son of the South, he was a staunch judicial champion of free speech, civil liberties and civil rights.
In his book, Suitts shows how Black was shaped by his Alabama origins and early influences. More than 25 years in the making, the book offers fresh, dramatic insights into Black's character, philosophy and ethics. It chronicles his struggles with family tragedies, profound racism, biracial poverty and Alabama-style conflicts over American ideals of justice.
The Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress holds the papers of Black, which were donated to the Library by his family and friends shortly after his death in 1971. The papers cover many aspects of his personal life and political career, when he was a U.S. senator from Alabama (1927 to 1937), in addition to his contributions to constitutional law. His papers comprise one of the largest of the Manuscript Division's judicial collections.
Speaker Biography: Steve Suitts was born in Winston County, Ala., in October 1949. Growing up in Alabama, he attended Haleyville Elementary School, where he enjoyed Governor "Big Jim" Folsom's speeches, field trips and baseball. He attended Appleby Junior High School and Coffee High School in Florence, where he played basketball, was secretary of the student council and was in charge of "bumper stickers" for north Alabama in Congressman Carl Elliott's unsuccessful bid to defeat George Wallace and his wife, Lurleen, who was running for governor. Suitts is the founder of the Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and for 20 years was the director of the Southern Regional Council. He now works for the Southern Education Foundation in Atlanta, where he lives.