State Courthouse in Merced Named After Prof. Charles Ogletree, EJS’s Founding Board Chair

The Superior Court of California, County of Merced, hosted a ceremony last Friday, February 17, to name the 2260 N Street, Merced, Courthouse after Professor Charles James Ogletree Jr. who was born in Merced on December 31, 1952.

The Equal Justice Society congratulates Prof. Ogletree and the Ogletree family on this honor and thanks former California Assemblymember Adam Gray, who sponsored the bill, AB 2268, on the courthouse naming, and Governor Gavin Newsom, who signed the bill into law on September 18, 2022.

Prof. Ogletree was instrumental to the formation of EJS. “There would be no EJS if not for Tree’s seal of approval in 2000,” said Eva Paterson, EJS’s Founding President. “He vouched for us with funders and opened doors at the Ford Foundation through his colleague Alan Jenkins, who was our champion and gave us one of our first major grants.”

Prof. Ogletree is well-known as a mentor to former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, a dedicated teacher who taught students that law can be a tool for social and political change.

Ogletree first achieved celebrity as moderator of “Ethics in America,” a television series in the late 1980s, but his name became well known around the country in 1991 when he represented Anita Hill during Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Prof. Ogletree was a role model for attorneys committed to civil rights, social justice, and equality for all. He represented the survivors of the 1921 Tulsa race riot as they sought reparations, advocated for victims of racial profiling, and spoke in favor of reparations for descendants of African slaves.

EJS today carries on the torch to achieve Black reparations. EJS President Lisa Holder is on the forefront of the reparations movement as a member of the California Reparations Task Force. “Professor Ogletree was one of the greatest 20th century reparationists. This year, with our focus on narrative shifting and reparations, we have come full circle to honor his legacy.”

At Harvard Law School, he founded the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute to honor the 1922 HLS graduate who worked to dismantle Jim Crow laws, trained civil rights champions Thurgood Marshall and Oliver Hill, and spearheaded the legal strategy to end segregation in public schools.

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