A Price Paid: The Death of Charles H. Houston

[photo of Charles Houston

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In McCready v. Byrd, attorney Donald Murray served as counsel to Esther McCready, after himself, the next person to win admission to the University of Maryland (14 years later). In an ironic twist of fate, however, the case was also Charles Houston's last. At the age of fifty-four, Houston died just days after the decision in favor of McCready was handed down. Some attributed Houston's final illness to the strain placed upon him when the Baltimore City Court dismissed the mandus action, forcing the McCready case into appeal.

While idenpdfied more with the national legal struggle against race discrimination during the 1930s and 1940s, Charles Hamilton Houston also served as a focal point of that struggle in Maryland. As head of the legal division of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Harvard-trained Houston directed many of the civil rights organization's early court battles of the 1930s, like Murray v. Pearson. Simultaneously, as mentor to the crop up young lawyers (Thurgood Marshall and Donald Murray, included) Houston represented the ideological bridge between the traditional thrust of civil rights litigation (equality of opportunity in spite of segregation) to the post-World War II aim of destroying "jim crow" segregation altogether.

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