Robert Carter second from left) with other attorneys for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in 1954 photo. Also pictured are, from left; Louis Redding, Oliver Hill, Thurgood Marshall and Spottswood Robinson 3rd.
ROBERT CARTER, a former federal judge and groundbreaking lawyer who helped banish segregation, died Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 94.
Carter, who successfully argued before the Supreme Court in the historic Brown vs. Board of Education case before joining the federal bench in New York, died of complications from a stroke.
The Manhattan resident began his career in 1944 at the Legal Defense and Educational Fund — then part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, headed by Thurgood Marshall.
He impressed the organization’s leaders and became Marshall’s chief deputy four years later, working on discrimination cases and tirelessly researching the legal argument that school segregation was unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court outlawed legal segregation in 1954, adopting Carter’s position as its own.
“We have one fundamental contention,” Carter told the court, according to The New York Times. “No state has any authority under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to use race as a factor in affording educational opportunities among its citizens.”
Carter was later named general counsel at the NAACP, which had become an independent organization.
He also worked for the Urban Center at Columbia and a New York law firm before President Richard Nixon nominated him in 1972 as a federal judge in the Southern District of New York.
There, Carter presided over numerous notable cases, including the merger of two pro basketball leagues into the National Basketball Association and a bias case in which Carter ruled that the NYPD discriminated against blacks and Hispanics trying to become cops.
His decision led to reforms in the department.
Carter is survived by his son, Bronx Supreme Court Justice John W. Carter; another son, David Carter; and a sister and grandson.