(Reuters) - Robert Carter, a longtime federal judge who helped convince the Supreme Court that segregation in schools was unconstitutional, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 94.
Carter, an African-American who for decades served as a District Judge in Manhattan, was a leading member of the legal team that persuaded the Supreme Court to end segregation in U.S. public schools with its landmark 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. District Court in Manhattan confirmed Carter’s death. The cause was complications from a stroke, his son, New York state supreme court Justice John Carter, told the New York Times.
Upon leaving the military in 1944, where encounters with discrimination left him determined to fight racism, Carter became chief assistant to Thurgood Marshall, then the top lawyer at the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund.
Marshall later became the first African-American Supreme Court justice.
Marshall, Carter and others began raising legal challenges to school segregation in different states, in cases that were eventually consolidated by the Supreme Court under Brown v. Board of Education.
Carter, who argued the case in front of the court, said in a 2001 interview with African-American archive “The History Makers” that the legal victory was exhilarating.
“I don’t believe I ever thought we could, we were gonna lose, we could lose that case,” Carter said. “There was.. too much at stake.”
Carter told The New York Times three years later that he felt he did not get sufficient recognition for his role in securing the landmark 1954 ruling.
“I‘m not one of those people to toot my horn well,” he told the interviewer.
Carter became general counsel of the NAACP in 1956, but resigned in protest in 1968 over the firing of one of its attorneys.
Carter was born March 17, 1917. He obtained his law degree at Howard University in 1940, followed by a Masters at Columbia University a year later. He was appointed to the federal bench in 1972.
In 2005 he published his memoir, “A Matter of Law: A memoir of struggle in the cause of equal rights.”
Carter is also survived by his son David, daughter Alma Carter Lawson and a grandson, The New York Times reported.
Reporting by Basil Katz. Editing by Peter Bohan