African American civil rights lawyer Houston was instrumental in devising and using litigation strategy to establish the equal rights of African Americans before the law in a series of Supreme Court cases.
The only child of black, middle-class Washington, D.C., parents, Houston won honors at Amherst College and Harvard Law School. He won a scholarship to gain his S.J.D. degree and (with Felix Frankfurter’s recommendation) a fellowship to obtain the Doctor of Civil Law degree (University of Madrid, Spain). Houston returned in 1924 at a time when laws enforcing racial discrimination were deemed constitutional. He earnestly and tirelessly devoted his life to battling such laws. Joining his father in private law practice, he began part-time teaching at predominantly black Howard University Law School. In 1929-1935 he taught there full-time and was de facto dean. He helped the institute gain full accreditation in 1931 and made it a national center for rigorous study of law and a laboratory for civil rights advocacy, training African American lawyers to be social engineers.
Houston served as the first full-time counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Legal Defense Fund, NAACP
Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Race and discrimination
Segregation, de facto
Segregation, de jure
Shelley v. Kraemer