And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, That bringeth forth his fruit in his season; His leaf also shall not wither; And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Charles Ogletree, Jr. brought forth fruits of goodness to humanity and leaves a legacy that prospers as we recall his morality and commitment to advancing access, equity and social justice. Born to migrant farm workers, the California native became a brilliant legal giant. He was the Jesse Climenko Professor at Harvard Law School and the founder of the school’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. The power of his commitment to justice touched the famous as well as everyday people. Not only did he defend Anita Hill, mentor and inspire students like Barack Obama and Michelle Robertson Obama, and assist Nelson Mandela in framing the Constitution of South Africa, he also created programs which brought students from Harvard Law School to assist indigent people in Roxbury Courts. He frequently corralled any interested person, high or low in status, to join one of his fishing trips.
Without hesitation, he gave a quick response, “Smitty let me know when it is”, when asked to be the keynote at the first National Race Amity Conference in 2011 and expressed sincere humility when being awarded the National Center for Race Amity Medal of Honor. These are only a few of the many, many leaves nourished by his presence and personifies the nickname , “Tree”, which many of us called him.
“Tree” your presence is missed.
William H. “Smitty” Smith, Ed.D.
Founding Executive Director
National Center for Race Amity