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George Crockett, Jr.

Photo courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University
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As an attorney, Judge and Congressman, George Crockett, Jr. challenged the status quo through legal means and, in the process, sought to ensure that those most marginalized received fair and equitable treatment from the law. In this context, there are few African Americans as closely associated with Detroit and the law who could boast of a higher commitment to the city and under conditions that would have compelled most people to sacrifice their convictions.

George Crockett, Jr. was born in Jacksonville, Fl. where he attended public schools, graduating from Stanton High School. He is a graduate of Morehouse College (1931) and the University of Michigan Law School (1934). Thereafter, he found employment in areas reflecting his commitment to labor and civil rights. He is the father of three children who he had with his first wife, Dr. Ethelene Crockett. After her death, he married Dr. Harriete Clark Chambliss.

He was known for taking unpopular stands on controversial matters. As an attorney in private practice, for example, he became one of five lawyers who represented the leadership of the Communists Party who had been charged with conspiracy under the Smith Act (1949-1950); he spent four months in jail for contempt in connection with this case and almost lost his license to practice law in Michigan as a result. In 1950 he became a partner in the law firm of Goodman, Crockett, Eden and Robb, considered the first interracial law partnership in the United States (1950-1966). Following an unsuccessful bid for the city council (1965), he was elected as a judge of the Detroit Recorders Court (1966-1978). Acting in that capacity, he released most of the 140 people taken into custody after a shoot out between police and members of the Republic of New Africa, citing that most of the arrests were illegal. He often advocated treatment over incarceration for drug offenders and defended the Ku Klux Klan's right to stage a Detroit rally in the 1970s. After a short stint as the acting city corporation counsel for Detroit, Crockett served five terms as a congressman (1980-1991) representing the 13th Congressional District of Michigan comprising a portion of Detroit. In that capacity, he was one of the first congressmen to be arrested at the South African Embassy in protest against that government's white-minority rule and "evinced sympathy toward the Palestinian Liberation Organization when most political figures shunned the group as a terrorist organization."

He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including an honorary L.L.D. from the University of Michigan (1972).



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