The Conscience of a Lawyer: Clifford J. Durr and American Civil Liberties, 1899–1975

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Clifford Judkins Durr was an Alabama lawyer who played an important role in defending activists and other accused of disloyalty during the New Deal and McCarthy eras. His uncompromising commitment to civil liberties and civic decency caused him to often take unpopular positions.

In 1933, Durr moved to Washington to work as a lawyer for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, a creation of Roosevelt’s new Democratic administration, becoming a dedicated New Dealer in the process. He was then appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a politically sensitive position as FDR sought to counter the increasing power and concentration of broadcasters, many of whom were opponents of the New Deal. Durr resigned from the FCC in 1948 and after brief employment with the National Farmers Union in Colorado, the Durrs eventually returned to Montgomery, Alabama in the hope of returning to a more prosperous, less controversial life.

Durr continued to practice in Montgomery as counsel for black citizens whose rights had been violated and ultimately, in December, 1955, when police arrested Rosa Parks for refusing to give her bus seat to a white man he stepped in and lent his extensive legal prowess to her case and the continuing quest for civil rights. Closing his firm in 1964 Durr began to lecture in the United States and abroad. He died at his grandfather's farm in 1975
 

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This book ought to be required reading in the legal ethics course of every American law school.
John Salmond beautifully traces the life and times of a lawyer who exemplified courage and integrity
at a time when the nation was in the thrall of fear and ignorance.
There is some evidence that Cliff Durr, more than any other individual, was the model for Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird," the classic novel written by Cliff Durr's fellow Alabamian, Nelle Harper Lee.
 

Contents

A SOUTHERN BOY
1
JOHNNY REB AT OXFORD
19
LEARNING THE LAWAND OTHER THINGS
33
New DEALER
47
WAVELENGTH WARRIOR
72
THE LOYALTY ISSUE
98
CIVIL LIBERTIES LAWYER
123
COLORADO INTERLUDE
144
MONTGOMERY AND NEW ORLEANS
154
THE Civil Rights REVOLUTION
170
RETIREMENT AND REFLECTION
196
CONCLUSION
213
NOTES
220
BIBLIOGRAPHY
251
INDEX
260
Copyright

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About the author (1990)

John A. Salmond (1937-2013) is Emeritus Professor of History at La Trobe University, Australia. He is author of Southern Struggles: The Southern Labor Movement and the Civil Rights Struggle and The Southern Rebel: The Life and Times of Aubrey Willis Williams, 1890-1965, and many more.

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