Charles Hamilton Houston

Some cool Amherst trivia: the architect of the legal challenge that resulted in Brown vs. Board of Education was an Amherst alum!  His name was Charles Hamilton Houston, and he graduated from Amherst in 1915 as valedictorian and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.  After he graduated from Amherst, he went to D.C., his hometown, to teach at Howard University.  When the U.S. entered WWI, Houston joined the army, which was segregated at the time.  He was sent to France.  He returned to the U.S. in 1919, and attended Harvard Law School.


Houston had a part in almost every civil rights case leading up to Brown vs. Board of Education.  His plan to attack Jim Crow segregation by showing the inequality of the “separate but equal” doctrine from the Supreme Court Plessy v. Ferguson case, which challenged the 1890 Louisiana state law requiring blacks to ride in a separate train car, was instrumental in bringing about the Brown v. Board of Education decision.


Houston died of a heart attack at the early age of 54. He received many honors posthumously, including being commemorated in a minute long infomercial by Obama in 1991, back when he was editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Review.  He is definitely a part of the Amherst legacy that we can be proud of!