Category Archives: Special Collections

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.

War Criminals and Cherry Blossoms?

Washingtonians and tourists alike make a pilgrimage every year to view the National Cherry Blossoms. The marvel of the delicate blossoms is not a recent phenomenon. The forefathers of our National Cherry Blossoms, which were gifted to United States in 1912 by the Mayor of Tokyo, came from the banks of the River Arukawa in Tokyo.  The blossoms gracing the banks of Arukawa River also caught the eye of John G. Brannon, a defense attorney appointed by MacArthur to defend Class A Japanese War Criminals at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.  As he remarks in his March 19, 1947 letter to his brother in Washington, DC,

“To fully understand the intimate love of the Japanese for their traditional national flower, I need only say that many persons contemplating suicide will put off the accomplishment of their intention until they again can view this abundant wealth of nature next month… the famous “Gosiki sakura” or fine colored cherry trees still found on this embankment[River Arukawa] well these gift trees were planted in your fair abode along the tidal basin of the Potomac River stretching about six miles.  To be popular in the crowd you must know these sources of light conversation and I assure you the ole professor gives it to you accurately.  Ah! I love the cherry blossoms.  But, lo! There are few cherries—since the G.I.s invaded Japan.”  (John G. Brannon, March 19, 1947)

One can wonder about his last comment, if he is still truly discussing cherry blossoms.  Apart from remarking about the splendor of cherry blossoms, Brannon does eventually discuss the trial and more important legal matters in his letter going on to state, “The pace of the trial—now ten months—, the poor whiskey, the ever decreasing caliber of food and the what-nots of overseas life have put many defense lawyers on the ropes.” 

Good thing he had the cherry blossoms to look at in all their splendor!

For more information on the unique collection of the John G. Brannon Papers please contact Special Collections at .

Special Collections Finding Aids Now Available Online

Special Collection now has PDFs of select Manuscript Collection Finding Aids available online through our database Eloquent.

 To Access Eloquent:

To Retrieve a Finding Aid:
1) Go to the above link for Eloquent
2) Search for a Collection in the Main Search Box (Example:  “Adkins”)
3) Click on the paper icon next to the Collection Level record to download the PDF or
4) Click on the Collection Level record to view more about the Collection (this record is highlighted in red) then
5) Scroll down to Documents and click on the paper icon labeled “Finding Aid”

Screen shot of Eloquent

If you have any questions or need further assistance please feel free to contact Special Collections at .

Women’s History – Equal Rights – Opposition?

“Dear Felix,
About a month ago I wrote Mrs. Florence Kelly giving the reasons for my opposition to the Women’s Party amendment to the Constitution.  I agree with you that it is a dangerous amendment, particularly at this time when the swing of the pendulum is away from legislation like the Minimum Wage Law. 
With Kindest regards and best wishes for the holiday, I am Sincerely yours,
Jesse Adkins ” 

Jesse Corcoran Adkins

The above is a letter to Felix Frankfurter by Jesse Corcoran Adkins (pictured), on December 19, 1921.  The letter is from the Judge Jesse Corcoran Adkins Papers in Special Collections.  In 1921 Felix Frankfurter was a professor at Harvard Law School and Jesse Adkins was a Georgetown Law faculty member and a member of the DC Minimum Wage Board.  It is unclear from the letter if Jesse Adkins is talking about the 19th Amendment to the Constitution or the Equal Rights Amendment, but what is clear is that both men saw it as taking the focus away from more important matters.   The Equal Rights Amendment was drafted by Alice Paul in or around 1923 and had been tested on the state level early in 1921, but would never make it to Congress until 1972. 

Both Alice Paul and Florence Kelley were very active in the women’s suffrage movement. In 1920 the 19th Amendment to the U.S Constitution passed.  The women’s suffrage movement had finally won women the right to vote.  Following the victory of the 19th Amendment, the National American Woman Suffrage Association transforms into the League of Women Voters and the National Woman’s Party established by Alice Paul.  Paul was able to garner substantial financial support for the National Woman’s Party and established their headquarters in Washington, DC.  She was a graduate of American University, receiving her JD in 1922 and her LLM in 1928.  She was the driving force in the continuation of women’s rights through the ongoing work of the National Woman’s Party and the Equal Rights Amendment. 

Select correspondence from Alice Paul and material on the National Woman’s Party can be found in the George Finch Collection, also available in Special Collections or more information can be found at the Library of Congress in the National Woman’s Party Records.  For more information on Felix Frankfurter, Jesse Adkins and Minimum Wage, see this great blog post by Dan Ernst on the Legal History Blog. Or for a closer look at either the George Finch Collection or the Judge Jesse Corcoran Adkins Papers, please contact Special Collections at .

Now Open: Equal Justice Collection- General Charles L. Decker Papers

Justice for All Booklet cover

 “For nearly two centuries the lawyers of America have been donating free services to defendants in criminal cases who could not afford lawyers. I submit to you that we have been trying too long in vain to prove the falsity of the old adage ‘you get what you pay for.’ The only way to provide competent representation is to pay for it, and I suggest that the principal source of these funds should be the governmental source.”

(Retired General Charles L. Decker, quoted from handwritten notes for his remarks to the National Defenders Conference, on May 16, 1969.)

The above speech to the National Defenders Conference later prompted testimony to the House Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, which sought to amend the Criminal Justice Act of 1964. General Decker’s testimony highlighted the early disparities in treatment between Federal Public Defenders and Federal Prosecutors under the original Criminal Justice Act of 1964. The Criminal Justice Act of 1964 arose out of the need to provide public defenders which was epitomized in the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright 372 U.S. 335 (1963).The act originally presumed that defense of the indigent would occur out of the generosity of the members of the Federal Bar and all remuneration under the act was considered to be token at best, resulting in widely disproportionate salaries and fees. General Charles Lowman Decker (L’ 1942), as Director of the National Defender Project, testified before congressional committees to the radical concept that if the level of justice was to be equal and fair, that a public defender would need to be offered a salary comparable to that of a prosecutor.

General Charles L. Decker

This testimony is part of the General Charles L. Decker Collection, a collection containing papers related to the National Defender Project, which ran from 1963 through 1971. This project was a Ford Foundation grant to the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and was intended to improve the quality and quantity of public defender offices and to research best practices in this area. The collection includes original documentation regarding grant inquiries, proposals, reports, presentations, congressional testimony, personal correspondence, research materials, brochures and seminar materials, budgetary documentation, journal and newspaper articles, legislative and regulatory materials, and other documentation. Specific topics include public defenders, student defense clinics, the 1964 Criminal Justice Act, prisoner representation, and other indigent defense topics. This collection was donated by General Decker, a Georgetown law alumnus and adjunct faculty member. The collection is available for research and a display of materials will be coming soon. For more information, please contact Special Collections at

Prepared by Erin M. Page, Esq.

New Indigent Defense Research Guide

To recognize the fiftieth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, the Georgetown Law Library has created a research guide devoted to the subject of indigent criminal defense.

This new guide combines primary and secondary legal sources, as well as original source material held in the National Equal Justice Library and Special Collections here at the law library. Also included are related materials such as statistics and items from our popular materials, such as the movie Gideon’s Trumpet, starring Henry Fonda.

We have organized the material into three main sections: One dealing with the law before Gideon; one devoted to Gideon itself; and one covering post-Gideon developments. The guide is designed to help students and others who want to quickly immerse themselves in the case law, scholarship, and historical materials concerning this essential element of our criminal justice system.

Should a legal right to “archival privilege” be established?

The recent blog post, “Should a legal right to ‘archival privilege’ be established?” posted on the blog Off the Record poses an interesting question which centers around the Boston College case involving the Belfast [Oral History] Project.  In brief, Boston College was subpoenaed on May 11, 2011 by Federal District Court for access to closed confidential oral histories that could contain information that might shed light on a murder inquiry in Northern Ireland. While Boston College appeals the request maintaining the “confidentiality” of the oral histories and the case is “pending” in the Supreme Court, the questions among archivists linger — will confidential remain confidential and should there be an established legal right to “archival privilege”? This provocative blog post illustrates this current dilemma.  “Do U.S. courts currently recognize an absolute or almost absolute legal right to confidentiality for scholars or archivists? And if they do not recognize such a right, should they?” Many archivists have varying perspectives on this issue. Archivists have a professional duty to curate many types of materials, some of which contain confidential information.  More thought provoking is the potential outcome of this case and how it will effect what people will be willing to archive in the future, inevitably impacting what will be remembered for generations to come.

New Special Collections Exhibit: Annotated Imprints – Illuminating the Life of the Law

Scholars researching the history of the law consider law books and related works from the period covered vital sources of information.The value of these sources increases when they contain contemporaneous annotations that can provide vital clues to the mental world of lawyers of the day. If those annotations were made by a significant historical figure, such clues are priceless. Georgetown Law Library’s Special Collections holds several annotated imprints, including:

Sir Edward Coke

Sir Edward Coke’s (1552-1634) copy of the 1569 imprint of De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae [On the Laws and Customs of England] (ca. 1230-50) by Henri de Bracton (1210-1268), the first treatise of English law now commonly known simply as Bracton; and,

Sir Matthew Hale







Sir Matthew Hale’s (1609-1676) copy of the 1640 imprint of one of the most significant medieval chronicle histories of England, Monachi Albanensis Angli Historia Major by Matthew Paris (1200-1259), the 13th century scholar, polymath, and member of the court of Henry III.

Annotated Imprints features selected facsimile images from these two unique books. The exhibit is currently on view in the Special Collections exhibit case outside Rm. 210 in the Williams Library.

To view these and other rare books and historical materials, contact Erin Kidwell – or Special Collections –, or visit us in Williams 210 M-F from 9am to 5pm.

New Exhibit in Library Atrium – Children and Advertising Collection

New in the Library Atrium Exhibit cases is the Children and Advertising Collection exhibit.  From 1976 to 1978 the Georgetown Law Center held the Children and Advertising Seminar to discuss the effects of advertising on children. The Children and Advertising Collection is unique in that it contains varied sources discussing television broadcasting and advertising, focusing on children’s television issues related to, the First Amendment, nutrition, violence, minorities, women, sex, and child abuse. There are also numerous Government related materials including Senate subcommittee hearing documents; legislative materials; FTC & FCC regulatory codes, and Congressional transcripts and reports. Along with Industry related materials including commercial storyboards and industry reports that focus on advertising and children’s nutrition.  The collection has multimedia as well, in the form of commercials clips, such as Uncle Ben’s Rice Treasure Hunt 1976 and Post Grape Nuts Rookies 1974.  Stop by the Atrium to take a look and learn more about this interesting collection.

For more information on this collection, please visit Special Collections in Williams 210 or contact Hannah Miller at

New Library Acquisition – The Quincy Wright Collection

The Law Library has recently acquired a collection of papers by esteemed international law scholar Quincy Wright (1890-1970).  Quincy Wright is considered the father of international relations.  He had a long career as a professor of social science and international law that spanned 40 years.  He began teaching at Harvard University and eventually ended up at Chicago where he taught from 1923-1956.  One of his main scholarly interests was war and preventions to war.  This scholarly interest contributed to his magnum opus The Study of War, written in 1942.  He was widely known and active in the international community, serving as adviser to Justice Robert H. Jackson at the Nuremburg Trials.  He also worked with and advised both the League of Nations and the United Nations on matters of international relations.  

The Quincy Wrigth Collection contains manuscripts, correspondence as well as many offprints from around the world spanning the years 1920-1965.  Quincy Wright was a great reader and his collection of offprints is filled with detailed notes and marginalia. The Quincy Wright Collection will be available for research soon in Special Collections.  For more information, please contact Hannah Miller at or 1-202-661-6602.

(Picture from