3: C
IVIL
R
IGHTS AND THE
Q
UEST FOR
J
USTICE
Jack Bas
1
I. The Role of the Fifth Circuit
In her 1949 book,
Killers of the Dream
, Lillian Smith lamented:
Had there been a few men in the South with enough strength
. . . with enough integrity and energy to act out their own beliefs
and with a strong belief in freedom and a clear vision of a new
way of life, our people might have been strung around with their
faces turned to the future
.
2
Less than a decade later, a handful of such men emerged as federal judges
in the South. Operating in the eye of a storm, they made the Fifth Circuit
Court of Appeals the institutional equivalent of the civil rights movement
itself. Their interaction in times of crisis confirmed Lillian Smith’s insight.
Like so much in life, it was by chance I got to meet these men, to inter-
view them at length, to know them, and to tell their story in my book
Unlikely
Heroes
.
3
Simon and Schuster’s 1981 subtitle calls it “The Dramatic Story of
1 Dr. Jack Bass is
at the Col-
lege of Charleston. He is also author of
T
S
: T
HE
L
T
OF
J
F
, J
R
.
S
S
F
C
R
(1993)
,
winner of the 1994 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.
2 L
ILLIAN
S
MITH
,
K
D
67 (1994).
3 J
ACK
B
ASS
,
U
H
(1990).
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