Featured collection: NEJL oral histories; Gideon v. Wainwright interviews

Among the unique resources in the National Equal Justice Library are 74 oral histories of lawyers and other advocates who helped found and sustain criminal and civil legal services programs for the indigent. The goal of the oral history project is to capture the experiences of these lawyers and other advocates so that future generations can learn from these experiences. It is also designed to help inspire and guide lawyers to take on the goal of fighting for equal justice under law.

Since this is the 50th Anniversary of the landmark Gideon v. Wainwright case, we would like to highlight the video recordings of three critical figures in the Gideon case: Abe Krash, Bruce Jacob, and Anthony Lewis. Victor Geminiani conducted each interview as part of the 1993 celebration of the 30th anniversary of the case. Videos of all interviews as well as transcripts are available on the NEJL website.

Abe Krash, a Georgetown Law faculty member, worked for Arnold, Fortas & Porter at the time, and assisted Abe Fortas in researching the issues and writing the brief for the case. In the interview, Krash recalled his extraordinary experience of working for Fortas.

Bruce Jacob argued the case on behalf of the State of Florida as a young Assistant Attorney General. In the oral history interview, Jacob recalls the “brutal” oral argument in front of the Supreme Court. Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Florida created its own public defender system, and Jacob volunteered as a special assistant public defender in Florida.

Another interview available in our collection is that of the late Anthony Lewis. He died just days after the 50th Anniversary of the Gideon’s case. Lewis covered the Gideon case as a Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times. He then went on to write the definitive history of the litigation. Gideon’s Trumpet, published in 1964 was also the basis of the film of the same name. The library screened the film during the recent Georgetown Law Library Equal Justice Film Festival. In the oral history, Lewis recalls how he became involved in the case after seeing Gideon’s petition in the Supreme Court file room on the day the Court agreed to hear the case. He also recalled the experience of meeting Clarence Gideon in the prison library of the Raiford Penitentiary.

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