Featured resource: Oral history interview with Howard Westwood

westwood_ohThe digitized recording of the oral history interview with Howard Westwood (1909-1994), conducted by Clint Bamberger on Oct. 6th, 1992, is now available online. Howard Westwood, one of the pioneers and leaders of the modern legal aid movement, was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, attended Swarthmore College, and received a law degree from Columbia University in 1933. He was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harlan F. Stone for a year before he joined Covington & Burling in 1934. In the 1950s, Westwood joined the Commission on Legal Aid of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, which initiated a report on the legal aid needs in D.C. The report, published in 1958, was one of the “very key documents in the history of the development of legal aid in the United States,” said Westwood. In the interview, he recalled the efforts to establish the Legal Aid Agency in D.C., the predecessor to the Public Defender Service for D.C., with the support of the Judicial Conference under the leadership of Judge Prettyman. The initial hope was to establish an agency that would represent clients in criminal as well as civil cases. Westwood also supported the establishment of the neighborhood legal services program in Washington, D.C. under the umbrella of the United Planning Organization, which was founded in 1964 with funding from the Ford Foundation. Westwood recalled the tensions between the traditional legal aid society in Washington, D.C. and the new neighborhood legal services program, which aimed at much broader social reforms.

Chart of the NSLP, Washington, DC. Photographer: unknown. Reproduction from: Guidelines for Legal Services Programs, Community Action Program: Office of Economic Opportunity, Washington, DC, 1967. National Equal Justice Library, Georgetown Law Library.

In 1965, Westwood helped facilitate the cooperation between the ABA and the NLADA to support the establishment of a federally funded legal services program. It was Howard Westwood who suggested that Clint Bamberger should be nominated as the first director of the OEO-LSP. Westwood continued to remain on the board of the NLSP, and worked as counsel for NLADA, where he advocated for the ongoing federal support of the legal services program. Westwood, a specialist in aviation law, retired from Covington & Burling in 1979. Westwood was awarded the “Servant of Justice” Award in 1992.

The interview with Howard Westwood is available through Digital Georgetown.

Katharina Hering

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