In 1949, as a freshman in college and member of a new NAACP chapter at the all-white University of Texas, I joined in urging the Regents of the University to admit Heman Sweatt to the University law school. I have since maintained his membership in the NAACP. In the 1960s, I was an outspoken supporter of the movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1955-1957, after law school, I served as a private soldier in the United States Army. I served as an officer efficiency report clerk at Aberdeen Proving Ground, and then as a legal counselor to military personnel on civil matters. Many of my closest friends in the Army were not white. This experienced confirmed my respect for the many fellow citizens who stand ready to perform their public duties and who deserve the protections that law can provide.
In 1964, I was a founder of the Northwest Area Council on Human Relations. a group in Columbus, Ohio dedicated to racial integration of the city’s upscale suburbs. While in the Army, I had read several books about India and about Gandhi, so I was quick to resonate to the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1966, I was instrumental in establishing the special admissions program at the University of Michigan Law School. In 1970-1973, as a member of the local school board, I was instrumental in establishing alternative schools for adolescents misfitting the large public high schools, a program strongly favored by the minority community. When we had a minor riot at a high school by African-American youth, I took it upon myself as the most-left member of the Board to tell the miscreants that they could expect no political support for their unwarranted disorder. I assisted counsel for the Detroit schools in litigating the metropolitan bussing scheme that became Milliken v. Bradley.
In 1974, I was the keynote speaker at a conference on the 10th anniversary of Brown v. Board organized by the Black American Law Students Association. In the 1992, as a former dean, I cautioned against admissions quotas as counterproductive; my words were not well-received by some friends deeply committed to maximum affirmative action. In 2000, I was privileged to speak at a memorial service for Leon Higginbotham, a friend, a distinguished federal judge, and a civil rights activist. In 2004, I was invited to a ceremony in Little Rock recalling Brown. My thought was that the role of the Supreme Court in ridding us of the evil of de jure segregation was helpful, but hardly so important as many believe. Reflections on Brown.
In 1995, while teaching at the University of Hawaii, I became more fully aware of the sovereignty movement attempting to advance the interests of indigenous Hawaiians. After studying the matter, I became skeptical, especially of the work of the trustees of the Bishop Estate created by the heiress of the former royal family. The trustees have since been replaced and the institution re-organized, but it still strikes me as odd and even unjust that the world's most expensive school should choose its students on the basis of racial qualifications: a student who is 1/64th an indigenous Hawaiian gets in, but not a student who is an impecunious orphan with perfect test scores and no indigenous ancestor. My friend and sometime colleague, Randy Roth co-authored an excellent account of the corruption of the Bishop Estate by persons claiming privileged status because of their indigenous ancestry. In 2006, I wrote an essay reviewing the book and expressing my disapproval of the subversion of the royal Princess's will. The Ninth Circuit sitting en banc narrowly approved the school policy, and the case was settled before the Supreme Court considered it. The Ninth Circuit opinion relied heavily on incorrect historical facts that were recited by Congress in a 1993 resolution that was itself without consequence and was uncontested. I heartily disapprove the 2007 decision of the Supreme Court invalidating public school placement policies in Seattle and Louisville, but it would seem to lend strength to my view that the Ninth Circuit was wrong.
My other published work on the subject is:
Professionalism and Our Troubled Times, 54 A.B.A. J. 943 (1969)
The Proposed Equal Education Opportunity Act of 1973, Law Quad Notes (1973)
Diversity!, 1992 Utah L. Rev. 1105
One Law: The Role of Legal Education in The Opening of the Legal Profession Since 1776, 44 Fla. L. Rev. 591 (1993)
Comment on Derrick Bell's "Diversity and Academic Freedom," 43 J. Leg. Ed. 380 (1993)
Reflections on Brown, 20 J. App. Practice & Process 101 (2004)
Testamentary Incorrectness: A Review Essay, 54 Buffalo L. Rev 610 (2006)