Boston against Busing: Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s

By Ronald P. Formisano | Go to book overview

4
"A Harvard Plan for the Working Class Man" Reactions to the Garrity Decision and Desegregation

The federal district court judge who decided the Boston case, Wendell Arthur Garrity, Jr., had been assigned the case from among a number of judges by a process of random selection. It is doubtful, however, that the luck of the draw would have made the basic finding any different. Any other judge, given the twenty-year history of Supreme and lower-court decisions preceding Morgan v. Hennigan also would probably have found the Boston School Committee guilty of maintaining a dual, segregated school system. 1 But the distinctive personality of Garrity had much to do with the timing of the decision and with the remedies applied.

That Garrity's father had been named by his grandmother after the well-known nineteenth-century Boston Brahmin abolitionist and reformer, Wendell Phillips, signified much. That his father, a prominent lawyer and member of a middle-class Irish Catholic family in Worcester, Massachusetts, was a member of the NAACP in the 1940s and 1950s also presaged his son's reaction to Morgan v. Hennigan as "pure and simple a race case." 2

As did most male members of his family, Garrity attended Holy Cross College in Worcester, from which he was graduated in 1941. He left Harvard Law School during his second year and, despite nearsightedness, joined the army and became a sergeant in the Signal Corps. He participated in the Normandy invasion and won five battle stars during his service in France and Germany. Returning from war, he finished law school in 1946 and followed a typical career of interweaving minor public office, private law practice, and political work. The latter brought him into John F. Kennedy's orbit in the 1950s, and after meeting Kennedy at a

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