Hastie, William Henry

(1904-1976)
   Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, William Hastie graduated from Amherst College in 1925 and Harvard Law School in 1930. Having passed the bar exams, he practiced law in Washington, D.C., with Charles H. Houston and also taught at Howard University. He obtained his doctorate in judicial science from Harvard Law School in 1933 and joined the faculty at Howard, where he remained until 1946. Hastie also worked for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People with Thurgood Marshall and notably helped argue the cases Smith v. Allwright (1944) and Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia (1946).
   In 1933, Hastie joined the New Deal’s black cabinet when he became an assistant solicitor in the Department of the Interior. He became the first African American appointed to the federal bench when he became judge of the U.S. District Court for the Virgin Islands in 1937. He returned to the United States in 1939 to become dean of Howard Law School. From 1940 to 1943 Hastie was civilian aide to Secretary of War Henry Stimson, but he resigned in frustration with the lack of progress in the racial policies of the military, particularly the Army Air Force. In 1946, he was appointed governor of the Virgin Islands and in 1949 judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit. He subsequently became chief justice and served until 1971.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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