Civil rights lawyer Shaw​ to headline Oct. 22 event exploring  Shelley v. Kraemer, Margaret Bush Wilson

Sixty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that housing covenants restricting home ownership based on race violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. The case was Shelley v. Kraemer, and its impact will be explored at an event at Washington University in St. Louis.

In the short term, the landmark decision meant the Shelley family could purchase a home and live in St. Louis’ Lewis Place neighborhood, just north of the Central West End. But in the long term, it meant justice for countless African-American, Jewish and other minority families seeking the American Dream of home ownership — in neighborhoods of their choosing.


Leading the charge in that historic 1948 case was Margaret Bush Wilson, JD, an African-American lawyer and civil rights activist, and the law firm she formed with her husband, Robert Wilson, in 1946. The second woman of color to practice law in Missouri, Wilson served as president of both the St. Louis NAACP and the Missouri NAACP.

During her presidency, the NAACP won several civil rights cases, including the Rankin Trade School case and the Jefferson Bank case. In 1975, she became chair of the national NAACP and would go on to serve nine terms as the first woman to chair the organization. Wilson also was a trustee emerita of WUSTL and Webster University, and she has a named chair in her honor in Arts & Sciences at WUSTL.

Wilson’s legacy will be explored in a 1.0 Continuing Legal Education (CLE)-credit event, “Celebrating the 65th Anniversary of Shelley v. Kraemer and the Legacy of Margaret Bush Wilson: Where Are We Now?” The event will take place at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, in Anheuser-Busch Hall’s Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom. The celebration will feature Theodore M. Shaw, JD, professor of professional practice at Columbia University School of Law.

The event is free and open to students, faculty, staff and the community.

Shaw is well-known as one of the country’s top civil rights lawyers. For 23 years, he was an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, serving as assistant counsel and director of the Education Docket (1982-87); Western regional director (1987-90); associate director-counsel (1993-2004); and director-counsel and president (2004-08).

He began his legal career as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Shaw has argued numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal appeals court involving education, voting rights, housing discrimination, capital punishment and other civil rights issues.

Also speaking will be Kimberly Norwood, JD, professor of law and of African and African-American Studies in Arts & Sciences at WUSTL; John G. Baugh, PhD, the inaugural Margaret Bush Wilson Professor in Arts & Sciences and professor of African and African-American Studies; and L. Jared Boyd, JD, vice president and CLE chair for the Mound City Bar Association. Rufus J. Tate Jr., JD, of the Tate Law Firm, will introduce Shaw, and Nicole Colbert-Botchway, JD, president of the Mound City Bar Association, will provide closing remarks.

A reception will follow in the School of Law’s Crowder Courtyard (A-B Hall, No. 301), beginning at about 5:15 p.m.

The event is part of the School of Law’s 2013-14 Public Interest Law & Policy Speakers Series, and it is co-sponsored by the St. Louis City chapter of the NAACP, the Mound City Bar Association, law firms Husch Blackwell, Thompson Coburn and Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice; the African and African-American Studies rogram, the American Constitution Society and the Black Law Students Association.