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Louis L. Redding, civil rights pioneer

September 8th, 2011 No comments
louis redding and thurgood marshall

Louis Redding confers with Thurgood Marshall

Louis L. Redding was the first, and for twenty six years the only, African-American attorney in the state of Delaware. Born in 1901, Redding grew up in Wilmington and attended Howard High School, at that time the only high school in the state of Delaware open to black students. He graduated from Brown University and Harvard Law School.

In 1929 Redding passed the Delaware Bar Exam. His most difficult challenge had been finding a preceptorship, or clerkship, at that time a requirement for Delaware bar admission. No white attorney would offer Redding a clerkship, until Judge Daniel O. Hastings reluctantly agreed to serve as Reddings preceptor. Hastings encouraged Redding to never enter his office, so Redding did his studying at home or in the library.

Redding started a general practice in Wilmington, taking on criminal and family cases, but he also practiced in all three counties in Delaware. He was legal counsel for the Wilmington NAACP. Some of the many civil rights cases he handled were¬†Parker v. Univ. of Delaware, 31 Del. Ch. 381, 75 A.2d 225 (Del. Ch. 1950) (which integrated the University of Delaware), Gebhart v. Belton, 33 Del. Ch. 144, 87 A.2d 862 (Del. Ch. 1952), aff’d, 91 A.2d 137 (Del. 1952) (which eventually became part of Brown v. Board of Education, integrating the public schools) and Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority, 365 U.S. 715 (1961) (ending segregation in publicly owned properties).

Louis L. Redding died in 1998. His many contributions were eventually acknowledged by the state of Delaware. The University of Delaware established the Louis L. Redding Chair for the Study of Law and Public Policy and the City/County building in Wilmington was named after him. There is also a Louis L. Redding Middle School.

For more information on Louis L. Redding see:

Woolard-Provine, Annette. Integrating Delaware: The Reddings of Wilmington. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2003. F174.W79 N4 2003

Williams, Leonard L., Louis L. Redding 16 Del. Law. 10 (1998-1999)