Governor Edmund G. Pat Brown, NAACP attorney Nathaniel S. Colley and California Democratic Senator Clair Engle, Ca

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1 Governor Edmund G. Pat Brown, NAACP attorney Nathaniel S. Colley and California Democratic Senator Clair Engle, Ca

2 Nathaniel S. Colley Nathaniel S. Colley was born on November 21, 1918 in Carlowsville, Alabama. He grew up in Snow Hill, Alabama, and graduated from Tuskegee Institute in During World War II, he served in the United States Army and attained the rank of captain. He enrolled in Yale University Law School in He graduated with honors in 1948, receiving the Benjamin Sharp Prize for the best original essay written by a third-year law student. Colley migrated to Sacramento, California in 1948 and wrote as Associate Editor for the Sacramento Outlook. He was the city s first African American attorney and became an excellent trial lawyer. Civil rights issues were of equal concern to him. He chaired the legal committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and served as its western regional counsel. In 1952, Colley secured a ruling from the Sacramento County Superior Court which forbade segregation by the Sacramento Housing Authority. Five years later, he persuaded the Superior Court in Ming v. Horgan to declare that subdividers who received financial aid from the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration could not engage in discrimination. In 1964, California voters approved Proposition 14 which gave property owners the right to refuse to sell property to anyone and barred the state and any locality from adopting fair housing laws. Colley and other lawyers argued in several cases before the California Supreme Court that the initiative violated the equal

3 protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court agreed in Mulkey v. Reitman and voided Proposition 14 in The following year, the United States Supreme Court upheld the decision. Colley also devoted much time to employment and education issues. He was a co-chair of the California Committee for Fair Employment Practices and helped secure the passage of the state Fair Employment Practices Act in It prohibited discrimination in the workplace and established the Fair Employment Practices Commission to enforce the law. One year later, Governor Edmund G. Pat Brown appointed Colley to the California State Board of Education, the first African American on the board. He denounced the neglect of black history in textbooks and persuaded publishers to give adequate descriptions of the vital role of African Americans in United States history. He also drafted regulations adopted by the board that provided for the elimination of segregation in several school districts. Party politics was another important part of Colley s public life. He served on the Sacramento County Democratic Central Committee and the California State Democratic Central Committee. He contributed greatly to the reelection of Governor Pat Brown in Victory would not have been possible without the help of dedicated people like you, who campaigned in various parts of the state on my behalf, Brown wrote to Colley shortly after his election. Colley s influence extended to the nation s capitol. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the Committee on Discrimination in the United

4 States Armed Forces. He toured army installations throughout the world and reported on racial discrimination. Colley remained a very active attorney. He also taught part-time at the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento for seventeen years. Among his colleagues was Professor Anthony M. Kennedy. They were close friends in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated Kennedy to the United States Supreme Court. Colley testified in support of Kennedy at hearings held by the United States Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate confirmed his nomination in the following year. Colley later regretted his endorsement when Kennedy adopted a very conservative view of civil rights. He criticized Kennedy s votes in several cases that made it more difficult for racial minorities to challenge discriminatory employment practices. Colley died on May 20, 1992 at the age of 74 at his home in Elk Grove, California. Sources: Testimonial Dinner in Honor of Nathaniel S. Colley, Sacramento, January 13, 1968, box 29, folder 2, Loren Miller Papers, Huntington Library, San Marino, California; Bruce Lambert, Nathaniel S. Colley, 74, Lawyer Who Was a Leader in N.A.A.C. P., New York Times, May 25, 1992; Nathaniel Colley Sr.; Lawyer, NAACP Activist, Los Angeles Times, May 25, 1992; Center for Sacramento History, Guide to the Nathaniel S. and Jerlean J. Colley Papers, c

5 (Sacramento: Center for Sacramento History); Mark Brilliant, The Color of America Has Changed: How Racial Diversity Shaped Civil Rights Reform in California, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). Martin Schiesl Professor Emeritus of History California State University, Los Angeles March, 2014

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