1 minute read

Herndon v. Lowry: 1937

Herndon Arrested "on Suspicion", Herndon Becomes A Political Symbol, U.s. Supreme Court Hears The Case

Appellant: Angelo Herndon
Defendant: James L. Lowry
Appellant Claim: Unlawful arrest
Chief Defense Lawyer: J. Waiter LeCraw
Chief Lawyers for Appellant: Whitney North Seymour, W. A. Sutherland, Elbert P. Tuttle
Justices: Louis D. Brandeis, Pierce Butler, Benjamin N. Cardozo, Charles Evans Hughes, James C. McReynolds, Owen J. Roberts, Harlan F. Stone, George Sutherland, Willis Van Devanter
Place: Washington, D.C.
Date of Decision: April 26, 1937
Decision: Court found for appellant, 5-4

SIGNIFICANCE: In a case that raised political and legal issues of racial injustice in the South, the U.S. Supreme Court gave broader protection to revolutionary speech than it had in Gitlow v. New York, ruling that a state must be able to show a direct connection between the speech and an actual attempt to overthrow the government.

Angelo Herndon's worldview changed completely one sultry afternoon in June 1930 in Birmingham, Alabama. The slight, bespectacled black 17-year-old from a poor mining family in Ohio, a devout Christian who worked in a nearby coal mine, happened into a meeting of the Birmingham Unemployed Council. The speaker, a white Communist, was denouncing segregation and urging black and white workers to unite and confront racial and economic injustice. Impressed by the man's earnestness, Herndon committed himself to working for the Communist Party and became an organizer as the Depression deepened in the United States.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940