- Friend: Pistorius shot gun out car without warning
- States wrestle with developing, restricting drones
- Japan marks 3rd anniversary of tsunami disasters
- Ukraine’s Crimea seeks to become independent state
- Ex-Gov. Christie aides to judge: Quash subpoenas
- Rich Peverley collapses on Dallas Stars bench; game postponed
- Al Sharpton, Trayvon Martin’s parents rally against Fla. ‘stand your ground’ law
- Hillary Clinton campaign got illicit funds from D.C. scandal figure
- Obama administration backs off plan to cut prescription-drug program
- Tickets linked to stolen passports purchased by Iranian middleman
Standing on ‘the shoulders of Bob Ming’
Nearly five years to the day after his son was fatally shot, Martin Luther King Sr. sent a letter to the U.S. Parole Board in hopes of freeing a friend from prison.
“In the days when my son Martin Luther King Jr. lived and was struggling in what proved to be his destined way to bring full freedom to black citizens in their own country, Bob Ming came to the legal assistance of Martin, Ralph D. Abernathy and others who worked with them,” he wrote in the March 23, 1973, letter, now archived at Howard University.
“And but for the legal brilliance, fearlessness and dedication of Bob Ming, the struggle may well have died aborning.”
Thirty-five years after the death of William Robert Ming Jr., history has largely forgotten the Chicago civil rights lawyer who kept Martin Luther King out of prison, worked on the country’s biggest civil rights cases, and yet spent his own last few months locked up in a federal prison.
Still, friends and colleagues say they are thinking of him as the nation prepares to swear in its first black president, Barack Obama, whose Chicago home is two blocks from the East 49th Street address where Mr. Ming lived and held great sway in the civil rights movement a generation earlier.
“Bob Ming was a civil rights pioneer,” said George Leighton, his former law partner and a retired federal judge. “The NAACP, including Thurgood Marshall, didn’t do anything without consulting Bob Ming.”
Among other landmark civil rights cases, Mr. Ming worked with Supreme Court Justice-to-be Marshall in Brown v. Board of Education and Sweatt v. Painter, which both broke down racial barriers in education.
He represented a black man in Texas named William Ward whose murder conviction the Supreme Court reversed in 1942, amid evidence he was arrested without a warrant, driven for three days from county to county and beaten, whipped and burned before confessing.
And in front of an all-white Alabama jury and judge in a segregated courtroom in 1960, he helped keep King out of prison over perjury charges.
“Negro or not, he is a master of the law,” one newspaper account quoted a “reluctantly admiring” Alabama lawyer as saying.
The body of Mr. Ming’s work added significantly to the successes of the civil rights movement. For many who took part in that movement and who knew Mr. Ming, the work is culminating in what Mr. Leighton calls the greatest political moment in his 96-year life: the move of another black lawyer, Mr. Obama, from the same Chicago Hyde Park neighborhood where Mr. Ming lived into the White House.
“When I was at the Democratic National Convention in Denver after Barack spoke, I thought about Bob Ming,” said Abner Mikva, a former Chicago congressman, federal judge and Obama friend who was a student of Mr. Ming’s at the University of Chicago Law School. “It’s remarkable that Barack Obama would stand on the shoulders of a Bob Ming.”
None of those possibilities could have been on Mr. Ming’s mind in the early 1970s. With the reputations of colleagues like Mr. Leighton and Justice Marshall on the rise, Mr. Ming’s own legal career, and his life and freedom with it, were slipping away.
A fast rise
The son of Annie and William Ming Sr., a South Side Chicago municipal employee, Mr. Ming was born in 1911, later worked as a grocery clerk and found jobs on wrecking crews while putting himself through the University of Chicago. He was the first black to be elected to the school’s law review.
About the Author
Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Judge dismisses KBR's attempt to divert legal bills on sickened troops in Iraq to taxpayers
- Bill Clinton cashes in on struggling nonprofit hospital
- Fate of Alex Cho, cooperator in bribery case, uncertain after Justice Department reneges on promises
- Ex-Time executive gets ethics waiver to communicate with press
- Another government conference under scrutiny over costs
Latest Blog Entries
By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
- FCC targets black conservative in TV station fight
- Hillary Clinton campaign received funds from Jeffrey Thompson
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- EDITORIAL: Senate Democrats pointless all-night global warming talkathon
- CARNES: Kissinger's flawed and offensive analysis of Ukraine
- Atheists sue to remove 'Ground Zero Cross' from 9/11 museum
- Man with stolen passport on missing jet is asylum seeker
- Al Qaeda to launch English-language Web magazine 'Resurgence'
- Mitch McConnell on beating tea party: 'We are going to crush them'
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again