Since the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Florida, attorney Benjamin Crump has become a familiar face in the national news. A renowned civil rights attorney specializing in wrongful death cases, Crump and his team of lawyers are ever-present at the side of families seeking justice, particularly for those killed by police officers, including Ahmaud Arbery, Martin Lee Anderson, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Daunte Wright.
Crump accepts no legal fees “until we win” according to his website. He’s successfully won verdicts and settlements of more than $30 million in personal injury cases, $87 million in wrongful death cases, and $10 million in civil rights verdicts. However, the $27 million settlement he achieved in the Floyd case didn’t overshadow the guilty verdict his team also won against former Milwaukee police officer David Chauvin accused of murdering George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes.
Described by many as the “hardest-working lawyer in the country,” Crump has become a legal giant among all lawyers and joins the ranks of the late Johnny Cochran and many other top Black lawyers in the nation in recent history.
Crump serves as an inspiration to thousands of law school students who will graduate in the coming weeks, sit for the bar exam and embark upon their legal careers. At Howard University alone, the school of law will send off nearly 150 lawyers after hearing from attorney Bryan Stevenson, featured in the film “Just Mercy” and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, who will deliver the commencement address. Stevenson helped win a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibits sentencing children under 18 to death or life imprisonment without parole.
Planting the seeds that grow fighters for equal justice under the law comes much earlier. Two D.C. lawyers, Donald Temple and Georgetown Assistant Dean Everett Bellamy, were recently honored on Law Day by Washington Bar Association for tilling the soil. The two joined forces in 1979 to establish the Charles Hamilton Houston (CHH) Pre-Law Institute where they volunteered to teach for seven weeks and over 100 hours preparing students for law school. CHH graduates have attended more than 50 different law schools and serve in some of the nation’s most prestigious law firms.
Houston, a Harvard law school graduate and a former dean of Howard Law School, was born in Washington, D.C., in 1895. He taught and mentored Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Through his work as special counsel for the NAACP, he helped win the historic Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, among others.
Houston believed, “A lawyer is either a social engineer, or he is a parasite on society.” Law Day, celebrated annually on May 1, demonstrates how Black lawyers are changing society every day.
Black lawyers matter.