Segregation and Tulane University: A Legal Analysis (Video)



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  • [Music]
  • Hello. My name is David Lee Campbell,
  • Without knowing it, I played an interesting and important role in 1959
  • in the desegregation of Tulane University. And I'd like to tell you about it.
  • Really no one knew this before.
  • I arrived in New Orleans from a segregated college in Texas in 1957 on an essential-for-me  
  • Law School Scholarship to Tulane, which was also segregated.
  • After my first year, I  was – to my surprise – ranked first in my class.
  • That first summer  I knew I'd have to go back to Texas or  
  • get a good-paying job to stay in New Orleans. Luckily, I  landed one on Offshore Oil Rig Catco 19. Good money. 
  • Shortly after I returned for my second year at Tulane though, Catco 19 blew up and killed 12 men, one of  
  • which was the gentleman I’d been bunked with and  who had planned to retire after that last shift. 
  • The second summer, I opted - for  
  • much less money – to clerk for the biggest firm  in the City. I had my choice,  
  • as my ranking in class was still number one.
  • That was why I chose the firm of Jones Walker.
  • A week after I started, I was called in to see 
  • Mr Joseph Merrick Jones, the Founder and senior  managing partner in the firm. He told me I  
  • was to put aside any other assignments; that  he would have me work solely for him on only  
  • one large legal research project; that it was to  be kept between him and me; and that I was not to  
  • tell anyone what I was working on. He would hire  an out-of-office secretary to type the manuscript. 
  • I didn't know why all of this.
  • For the next three months, I researched and  analyzed the historic precedent and current  
  • state of the law with regard to segregation  in all areas of life: education, housing,  
  • employment, the military, and other civil liberties and  restraints. When finished, my thesis  
  • was typed up by an out-of-office secretary and  sent to Mr. Jones, who was in the Bahamas at the time. 
  • This event was first made public in my 2017 memoir
  • "The Double Life: A Survivor's Guide to Transcend Success and Tragedy."
  • Then I got a call from Mr. Jones. He said he’d just finished  
  • my “tome” as he called it, that it  was “beyond the call of duty,” and  
  • that he was putting a check in the mail for  “going beyond the expected.” Unfortunately,  
  • though I ran home every day to check the  mail to see whether he meant $100 or $1000,  
  • I didn't know,
  • no check ever arrived. After my third year at Tulane Law, I was one of  
  • 12 American scholars to be awarded the British  Marshall Scholarship to Oxford University,  
  • where in 1963 I finished my degree, D. Phil. in private international law. 
  • Shortly after returning to New Orleans and deciding to live there, I chose a very different large firm as  
  • Associate to begin my career. An then a tragic fire  broke out in the Jones home, engulfing both  
  • Mr. and Mrs. Jones and everything in the home.  My “tome” was for Mr. Jones’ use, apparently  
  • not filed at the firm itself. I assumed it too  was lost, but I still had my old tissue copy 
  • that he let me keep.
  • Mr. Jones served as Chairman of the Tulane  Board of Administrators throughout this time,  
  • including when I wrote the brief for him,  which I learned when in England, he needed in order to  
  • make the decision as Chair of the Board of Administrators whether to voluntarily desegregate Tulane, as litigation was  
  • also pending to compel it by judicial order.
  • I have donated my papers, including this desegregation “tome,”  
  • to Tulane. And now, after that tragic fire and the  death of Mr. Jones, the only other known copy  
  • of that foundational legal research is freely  available to everyone, online at the Tulane  
  • Digital Library at digitallibrary.tulane.edu. I’m both proud and humbled. So thank you, Tulane.
  • [Music]