The Courtroom Hero for Civil Rights

Solomon Seay was born in 1931 in the heart of the Jim Crow south. His father was a minister who moved around the south. Solomon graduated from Livingston College and returned to Alabama to study law. At the time, Alabama chose not to integrate its law schools and paid for African Americans to attend out-of-state schools. Solomon chose to attend law school at Howard University.

Prior to entering law school, Solomon was drafted to serve in the Korean War. After the war, he returned to Howard to study law. He returned to Alabama to practice law. He joined a law firm founded by the first two African Americans allowed to practice law in Montgomery.

His first major case was representing Rosa Parks, who was arrested for sitting in a whites-only section on a city bus. One year into his legal career, Solomon won a case which resulted in a court order for the City of Montgomery to integrate city parks. The Mayor of Montgomery closed all of the parks for nine years.

When activist ministers in Montgomery were sued by the commissioner for public affairs for libel, Solomon and two other lawyers represented the ministers. Solomon lost the case, but it was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court.

In the years to follow, Solomon and colleagues won landmark civil rights cases including:

  • Rights under the 14th Amendment
  • Permission for the Selma to Montgomery protest march
  • A liability suit in favor of patients in the Tuskegee syphilis study
  • Desegregation of public schools in Alabama
  • Funding equality for higher education
  • Voting rights cases

At the 50th anniversary marking the Selma to Montgomery March, Solomon was invited to the White House by President Obama. Solomon passed away in 2015 at 84 years old.

There are many roles for those who bring about change. While others in the civil rights movement are better known, the movement itself would have really struggled without the courtroom victorious of Solomon Seay.


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“We have lost a giant. Mr. Seay was a fierce lawyer but a gentle soul. It’s hard to think of anyone more responsible for changing Alabama for the better. We are indebted to him for his lifetime struggle for social racial justice.”  – Leslie Proll (Director of the NAACP Legal Defense Team)

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