The approaching year marks momentous milestones in our country’s elusive quest for racial and social justice. Next year, 2013, will mark the 50th anniversary of the famous “March on Washington” and Dr. King’s immortal “I Have a Dream” speech. Earlier that summer, on June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy, motivated in part by the national attention garnered by the atrocities visited on Birmingham, Ala., civil rights protesters, delivered a speech in which he formally proposed what ultimately became the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Later that same day, World War II veteran and civil rights activist Medgar Evers was murdered in his driveway in Mississippi.
In response to these events, on June 21, 1963, President Kennedy summoned more than 200 of the country’s most prominent lawyers to the White House. The assembled group reportedly included state bar presidents, leaders in major law firms and five past presidents of the American Bar Association. He urged them to defend the rule of law. He urged them to protect civil rights. He urged them to use the law to oppose state-sponsored segregation and terrorism in the South. He urged them to use their influence, resources and training for the greater good.