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Saving the Soul of Georgia

Saving the Soul of Georgia: Donald L. Hollowell and the Struggle for Civil Rights

Maurice C. Daniels
Foreword by Vernon E. Jordan
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Saving the Soul of Georgia
    Book Description:

    Donald L. Hollowell was Georgia's chief civil rights attorney during the 1950s and 1960s. In this role he defended African American men accused or convicted of capital crimes in a racially hostile legal system, represented movement activists arrested for their civil rights work, and fought to undermine the laws that maintained state-sanctioned racial discrimination. InSaving the Soul of Georgia, Maurice C. Daniels tells the story of this behindthe- scenes yet highly influential civil rights lawyer who defended the rights of blacks and advanced the cause of social justice in the United States.Hollowell grew up in Kansas somewhat insulated from the harsh conditions imposed by Jim Crow laws throughout the South. As a young man he served as a Buffalo Soldier in the legendary Tenth Cavalry, but it wasn't until after he fought in World War II that he determined to become a civil rights attorney. The war was an eye-opener, as Hollowell experienced the cruel discrimination of racist segregationist policies. The irony of defending freedom abroad for the sake of preserving Jim Crow laws at home steeled his resolve to fight for civil rights upon returning from war.From his legal work in the case of Hamilton E. Holmes and Charlayne Hunter that desegregated the University of Georgia to his defense of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to his collaboration with Thurgood Marshall and his service as the NAACP's chief counsel in Georgia,Saving the Soul of Georgiaexplores the intersections of Hollowell's work with the larger civil rights movement.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4629-8
    Subjects: History, Law, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Vernon E. Jordan Jr.

    From the time of Donald L. Hollowell’s birth in 1917 to his death in 2004, black Americans faced what historian W. E. B. Du Bois called the problem of the twentieth century—“the problem of the color line.” During Hollowell’s lifetime black soldiers fought in two world wars for a country that subjected blacks to second-class citizenship; state-sanctioned educational policies barred blacks from equal opportunities in public schools and colleges; an oppressive criminal justice system routinely denied blacks due process of law and the right to serve on juries; the health-care system prohibited blacks from access or relegated them to...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xxii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    I first met Donald Hollowell in 1990 on the campus of the University of Georgia (uga) in Athens, Georgia, during an annual lecture honoring Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter (now Charlayne Hunter-Gault), whom Hollowell represented in the historicHolmes v. Dannercase, which resulted in uga’s desegregation.¹ The university president’s office asked me, as president of the uga Black Faculty and Staff Organization (bfso), to escort Hollowell and his wife, Louise T. Hollowell—a bold civil rights advocate in her own right—during their campus visit. I was to meet the Hollowells at a reception attended by more than two...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Preparing for Battle: Early Influences and Aspirations
    (pp. 11-22)

    In 1917 World War I, the “war to end all wars,” was raging across Europe. After three years of neutrality, the United States had entered the fray. In France, American soldiers—including thousands of African Americans—were fighting to defend liberty and democracy.

    At the same time, African Americans in the United States were also struggling to defend liberty and democracy. In 1905, a group of activist black leaders created the Niagara Movement to fight for the political and civil rights of African Americans. Called together in Niagara Falls by scholar and activist W. E. B. Du Bois, this movement...

  7. CHAPTER TWO A Legal Education: Addressing the “Just Grievances” of Negroes in America
    (pp. 23-43)

    As Hollowell and other blacks fought in World War II to help win freedom abroad, blacks were emboldened to fight for racial justice in the United States. The naacp in tandem with state and local branches orchestrated protests against state-sanctioned Jim Crow practices, targeting mob violence, racial exclusion in education and employment, and the white primary.¹ Local people, tired of racial injustice, also initiated challenges to the social order of their own accord.

    Texas resident Lonnie Smith and Georgia resident Primus King were local activists whose protests had a major impact on helping to dismantle white supremacy. Smith, a dentist...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Road to Freedom: Challenging Segregation as Georgia’s Chief Civil Rights Lawyer
    (pp. 44-65)

    Saluting civil rights lawyers in 1965 for their vital contributions to the cause of social justice, Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed, “You should be aware, as indeed I am, that theroad to freedomis now a highway, because lawyers throughout the land, yesterday and today, have helped clear the obstructions, have helped eliminate road blocks, by their selfless, courageous espousal of difficult and unpopular causes.”¹

    Hollowell was the embodiment of a lawyer who espoused difficult and unpopular causes. His victory in theNashcase saved Willie Nash from a possible death sentence and secured his freedom. At the same...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Opening the Doors: Dismantling Segregation in Higher Education
    (pp. 66-90)

    Despite Hollowell’s victory in theCokecase, which opened doors to blacks at facilities in the Atlanta airport terminal, many other doors in Georgia remained shut—especially the doors to all-white schools. In 1958, four years after theBrowndecision, Jesse Hill and other black civic leaders renewed their challenge to racial segregation in public schools in Georgia. They chose Donald Hollowell as their chief counsel. Hollowell’s legal groundwork in theWardand gscb cases would prove particularly valuable in countering the legal maneuvers by state officials intent on maintaining segregation in education in Georgia.

    Hollowell, who remained a key...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. CHAPTER FIVE “An Appeal for Human Rights”: The Atlanta Student Sit-Ins
    (pp. 91-129)

    Hollowell’s defeat of segregation at Georgia’s flagship university had an immediate impact on the Atlanta public schools’ case, for which he also served as counsel. In the wake of federal judge Bootle’s decision to restrain Governor Vandiver from closing schools—Vandiver’s strategy for evading Bootle’s order to admit Holmes and Hunter to the university—Vandiver influenced the General Assembly to repeal most of its segregation laws. This action effectively ended Georgia’s hardened and hostile resistance to school desegregation. It also helped to create an environment that initiated a relatively peaceful, but nonetheless protracted, process of desegregating Georgia’s secondary schools.¹


  12. CHAPTER SIX Freedom in the Air: The Albany Movement
    (pp. 130-159)

    Despite Hollowell’s civil rights victories, some recalcitrant whites, bent on maintaining the Jim Crow social order, would require Hollowell and his comrades to fight legal battles county by county, school by school, public facility by public facility. Emboldened by civil rights courtroom victories but fed up with the glacial pace of change, both black and white youth sought more direct action. A more militant generation of activists emerged and “committed themselves to undertaking more direct assaults on the Jim Crow regime.”¹ Young Freedom Riders took to buses all over the South to challenge the segregation of buses and terminals, while...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Turning the Tide: Hollowell’s March across Georgia
    (pp. 160-189)

    By the early 1960s, Hollowell was increasingly taking on cases in remote areas of Georgia that covered the spectrum from defending the rights of blacks guaranteed by the United States Constitution to defending blacks from an oppressive criminal justice system. His willingness to take on civil rights cases and his reputation for success led to his involvement in virtually every case in the state that involved civil rights violations. John Ruffin, one of the few attorneys who practiced civil rights law in Georgia in the 1960s and later chief justice of the Georgia Court of Appeals, observed that it was...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT Hollowell’s New Marching Orders
    (pp. 190-210)

    In December 1961, when police officials jailed sncc activist Charles Sherrod in Terrell County in connection with mass protests in Southwest Georgia, Sheriff Zeke T. Mathews severely brutalized Sherrod during his imprisonment. Sheriff Mathews told his prisoners, “There’ll be no damn singin’ and no damn prayin’ in my jail.”¹ Sherrod recalled his beating by the sheriff one evening and the welcome presence of Hollowell the next morning:

    The first time I met Don Hollowell I was in jail. . . . The sheriff had lined us up and told us to come out of our cages. I told the boys...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 211-254)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 255-266)
  17. Index
    (pp. 267-285)