Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. will long be remembered for his tireless efforts to further justice in the United States. However, his vision of a society free from racial prejudice and discriminatory treatment was not limited to our borders, and thus he spent years working to eradicate the most blatant form of racial discrimination that existed during his lifetime: apartheid in South Africa. At the trial at which he faced the death penalty for his own efforts to oppose apartheid, Nelson Mandela stated,
[d]uring my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
Judge Higginbotham adhered to similar principles, and dedicated his life to the fight for equality. However, while Judge Higginbotham lived to see the end of apartheid, he recognized that we still have a long way to go, both in South Africa and the United States. We would be well advised to heed his observations. Furthermore, events of recent years may indicate that South Africa is in fact becoming a model for reform that we should emulate.
Charles J. Ogletree Jr.,
From Pretoria to Philadelphia: Judge Higginbotham's Racial Justice Jurisprudence on South Africa and the United States,
Yale L. & Pol'y Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/ylpr/vol20/iss2/10