LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
In Lumine Tuo
The story of Clarence Jones [’53] (January/February) honors not only himself for his great achievement in building a career from the poorest circumstances, to giving up a fine position in a big city law firm to be a Wintertime Soldier in the difficult struggle for civil rights — modestly, unassumingly but effectively — but it also honors the College and all Columbia alumni and faculty as members of the Columbia community that accepted him, supporting his development as a scholar and enabling his achievements. It also honors the country for providing the structure that made his progress possible.
Evan Charkes ’82 did a great job in gathering and organizing all that information and presenting it to us in his illuminating and inspiring article. Please thank him for all of us.
In lumine tuo videbimus lumen.
Sol Fisher ’36
Pleasant Hill, Calif.
Your salute to Clarence Jones ’53 was interesting in the extreme, as I knew him casually during the early ’60s when I too had the opportunity to take part in one of the lawsuits engendered during the persecution of Martin Luther King Jr. by various public officials in the South enraged by his struggle for justice and equal rights. Ours was argued in the U.S. Supreme Court and won as the companion case to The New York Times v. Sullivan that he refers to in his interview with you, and the Times was represented there by Herbert Wechsler, then a professor at Columbia Law School, and his colleague (soon to be a federal judge in the Southern District of New York) Marvin Frankel, two of the wisest men then around. I was not aware that Clarence had been involved in the Times’ case.
But to return to our companion case, Abernathy v. Sullivan — my then senior partner, Harry H. Wachtel ’40L, was asked by Theodore Kheel whether our firm might take on the appeal of four Southern Negro clergymen who had been sued by Montgomery’s Police Commissioner Sullivan for libel in Alabama’s state court, which had awarded damages of $500,000 against each of them, and had
lost their appeals to the intermediate and highest appellate courts in the State of Alabama. Their names had been appended to a fundraising ad in the Times as warm endorsers of its appeal for legal assistance to Dr. King; they had ignored Commissioner Sullivan’s demand for a retraction or condemnation. At the lunch meeting with Kheel, Harry and I and several others of our partners agreed to take on a proposed appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. I had the laboring oar and was the principal draftsman of the Petition for Certiorari and the subsequent Brief on Appeal, with considerable assistance from several colleagues on both, and the case was orally argued to the Court by former Attorney General William P. Rogers and Samuel Pierce. They, and we too, served pro bono.
I remember that Clarence was present at the oral arguments, and I believe he was also at the brief reception in a local hotel that followed immediately afterward where we all toasted our clients and Dr. King, and I offered a toast to Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her seat on the bus led to the Montgomery bus boycott that in turn ignited a far larger protest movement. The case, by the way, resulted in a long and close personal relationship of trust and confidence between Dr. King and Harry Wachtel, who together with his wife was to be an accompanying guest in Stockholm when Dr. King received his Nobel Prize some years later.
I was delighted to read of Clarence’s vastly deeper involvement with Dr. King that I had known little about until the story appeared in the January/February ’08 CCT, and I compliment him for it. I’m especially pleased to learn of his interesting career as well. But I do regret several needless errors, none of which I would attribute to him — neither Judge Hubert Delany nor his long-lived sisters ever had a second “e” in their name; “Ghandi” should never have seen final print; and, located across Broadway from Columbia Medical Center in Washington Heights, Audubon Ballroom was never in Harlem at all.
Joseph B. Russell ’49, ’52L
New York City
I noticed in your latest issue that the football field at Wien Stadium is now being named after Bob Kraft ’63. Has the University forgotten the gift of George F. Baker: 20 acres on the island of Manhattan, one of the greatest gifts ever received by Columbia? I remember hearing from William Bloor, the longtime treasurer of Columbia, that Nicholas Murray Butler [Class of 1885] always “lost” to Baker when they played golf in an effort to convince Baker to give the land to Columbia.
Important new gifts to Columbia should neither cloud nor diminish those gifts that helped make Columbia great.
Peter Krulewitch ’62
New York City
[Editor’s note: Officially, it’s now Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium at the Baker Field Athletics Complex.]
The November/December issue of CCT celebrates the nomination of Michael B. Mukasey ’63 to the post of attorney general. As a citizen as well as a member of Mr. Mukasey’s class, I am appalled.
As CCT readers are no doubt aware, at his confirmation hearings Mr. Mukasey refused to say categorically that waterboarding is torture. More recently, as The New York Times pointed out in an editorial published in response to Mr. Mukasey’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 30, “on torture, domestic spying and other important matters, Mr. Mukasey parroted the Bush administration’s deplorable line.” That “line” includes ignoring the Geneva Conventions and the Bill of Rights as well as the creation of a “unitary presidency” in accord with untenable legal arguments.
Mr. Mukasey’s elevation to the post of attorney general should not be cause for celebration but an occasion for sorrow and shame on the part of the Columbia College community.
Alan Wallach ’63, ’65 GSAS, ’73 GSAS
Legacy of Dedication
Jack Armstrong ’55 was an inspired sportsman and a football teammate of mine for four years. Every member of those Columbia teams admired his athletic abilities, coupled with his ready encouragement to everyone — players and coaches, any and all Columbia supporters. His legacy is that of lifetime Light Blue dedication.
Alfred L. Ginepra Jr. ’55
Santa Monica, Calif.
[Editor’s note: See Obituaries.]
Privilege of Citizenship
I have just finished reading the article by Nathalie Alonso ’08 in the January/February edition regarding Nhu-Y Ngo ’09 [“Student Spotlight”]. I could not help but feel somewhat amused at Ms. Ngo’s “annoyance” about her parents’ time and expense as they go (or should I say “went”) through the process of becoming U.S. citizens. It seems to me that she has quickly acquired the sense of entitlement that some Americans have regarding almost everything.
What Ms. Ngo has accomplished is nothing short of amazing, and I admire her for that. But U.S. citizenship is a goal I feel worth accomplishing through whatever sweat and tears it takes as long as it is done through the legal process. We struggled mightily to become citizens and are the better for it. We did not expect this privilege to be handed to us on a silver platter and we did not become “annoyed” that we had to satisfy so many requirements and deal with the “many barriers” in reaching this goal (for ourselves and our children). As Ms. Ngo continues to stand up for immigrants and voters, let me remind her that we are a nation of laws. It would be hypocritical of her to disregard any immigration law just because it “annoys” her.
Thank you for this opportunity to express my view.
Dr. Romel Paul L. Ramas P’04, Barnard P’99
Congratulations to Christophe Knox ’95, as he “retires” from the presidency of the Columbia Club of France, for developing one of Columbia’s best alumni networks.
Via his extensive Franglais
e-mails reporting such successful alumni gatherings as the Parisian Thanksgiving feast and the bowling tournament against Harvard, he has inspired so many of us with his love and enthusiasm for alma mater.
Although I reside in New York and rarely visit France, his missives motivated me to support the club, and I was thrilled and honored to meet him and fellow members at the first CAA abroad. Enough cannot be said about the efforts Knox and the club made to organize that highly successful event; it was truly top drawer, and all attendees will remember it forever.
Merci encore, et bonne chance.
Dennis Klainberg ’84