Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from P-T » Richardson, Scovel(1912–1982) - Judge, lawyer, educator, Receives Presidential Appointments, Chronology

Begins Legal Career in Midwest

richardson law school lincoln

Richardson returned to Chicago, where he worked for a time as a salesman at Michelson’s, a retail establishment in the city, until he could develop a base of clients as a lawyer. He also married the former Inez Williston of Washington, D.C. on July 3, 1937. In 1938, Richardson entered the private practice of law with the firm of Lawrence and Richardson, where he remained for the next two years.

In the neighboring state of Missouri, events were taking place which would affect Richardson and the future direction of his legal career. Lloyd L. Gaines, a 1935 graduate of Lincoln University, the HBCU established in 1866, applied for and was refused admission to the law school at the University of Missouri. A lawsuit was filed against the state and the university ( Gaines v. Missouri ), and the state supreme court ruled that, since provision had been made for Gaines and other African Americans to attend law schools in other states, their rights to pursue a legal education had not been denied.

The court’s decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which outlawed tuition aid for out-of-state study by African American citizens of states practicing segregation in its 1938 ruling on the case and required the state of Missouri to provide access to equal in-state facilities. The University of Missouri had to admit Gaines, or the state had to establish a law school at Lincoln. The state chose the second option, and Richardson was recruited for a position on the law faculty of the new school, which opened in St. Louis with thirty students in September 1939.

Richardson was uniquely qualified to assist in the development of the Lincoln law school, as he had experienced both the dynamics of segregation and the HBCU setting while in Washington at Howard. In addition, W. E. Taylor, the former acting dean at Howard, was the dean of the Lincoln law school, so Richardson, who had been hired as an associate professor, and the five other faculty members could build the law school based on the Howard model.

While living in St. Louis, Richardson joined the St. Louis Negro Bar Association but made headlines when he moved his family into a white neighborhood in the city and challenged the city’s leading bar association for not allowing black lawyers to join the organization. He remained in his home despite attempts at intimidation from white homeowners and real estate groups and won a lawsuit affirming his right to live where he chose.

In 1943, during World War II, Richardson made the decision to leave his professorship to accept his first government position, as a senior attorney in the Office of Price Administration (Stabilization). He relocated to Washington and worked in this capacity until 1947, returning to Missouri and Lincoln to become a full professor and dean of the law school. By this time the Richardson family includes four daughters: Frances Elaine, Alice Inez, and twins Mary Louise and Marjorie Linda.

Despite the significance of leading one of the few law schools at HBCUs, Richardson continued to challenge the legal segregation in the state that led to its existence. African Americans were still being denied admission to traditionally white institutions in southern and border states enforcing these laws, yet Richardson pressed forward, knowing that success in changing the established order could have negative implications for Lincoln and other HBCUs. At the same time, according to the Washington Post , he stressed in public forums such as the 1947 Young Republican National Federation convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that “Negroes are a people unshaken in their devotion to their country” who would not be divided by “the merchants of hate.”

Richardson and his African American colleagues in the legal profession were encouraged by Executive Order 9981 of President (and Missouri native) Harry S. Truman, which desegregated the military services/armed forces on July 26, 1948. His Howard mentors and peers such as Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, James M. Nabrit, and others were involved in additional cases through the NAACP Legal Defense Fund that continued to attack legal segregation, culminating with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case and decision in 1954.

Even though Richardson was a Republican, he, along with most African Americans, was supportive of the progressive policies of the Democratic administration led by Truman. As a result, African American voters may very well have given Truman the margin of victory in the 1948 election. Richardson remained at his post as dean of the Lincoln law school during the presidency of his fellow Missourian, while also serving in various capacities with the National Bar Association (NBA), an alliance of blacks in the legal profession. He was elected as national president of the NBA in 1951 and served the organization in that role for a year.

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