Jack Bass

Jack Bass - Taming The Storm

In 1955, the same year Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus to a white man, President Eisenhower brought down from the hills of northwest Alabama a young U.S. attorney to sit as a federal District Court judge in Motgomery. His name was Frank M Johnson, Jr., and at thirty-seven he was the youngest federal judge in the country. Thrust by fate into the center of a raging storm of controversy, this quietly determined judge would turn the tide of white resistance to integration with a stream of decisions that upheld the claims of black Southerners to their civil rights.

In his twenty-four years on the District Court, Judge Johnson declared segregated public transportation unconstitutional, ordered the integration of public facilities, and required that blacks be registered to vote. He ordered Governor George Wallace, his former law school classmate, to allow the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery and brought about comprehensive statewide school desegregation. His precedent-setting decisions extended to discrimination against women, rights of prison inmates, and the right of patients in mental institutions to treatment.

Judge Johnson paid heavily for his judicial vision. Ostracized from his community, subjected to death threats by the Ku Klux Klan, and labeled by George Wallace as “an integrating, scalawagging, carpet-bagging, race-mixing, bald-faced liar” who should be given “a barbed-wire enema”, he was called by some “the most hated man in the South”.

In 1967 his mother’s house was bombed in the belief that it was his. Despite it all, he did not waver in administering justice by applying his concept of the Constitution as a charter of liberty. Martin Luther King Jr. called him a man who “gave true meaning to the word justice.”

Taming The Storm

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