09:42 AM

Executive Summary: Remembering Civil Rights Legend Frankie Muse Freeman

by Sebrina A. Barrett, Executive Director of The Missouri Bar


Legendary civil rights advocate Frankie Muse Freeman passed away January 12, 2018 at the age of 101.

Legendary civil rights advocate Frankie Muse Freeman passed away January 12, 2018 at the age of 101. Hers was a life spent challenging prejudice in all parts of society – and doing so much to overcome it. Her weapons of choice were her fearlessness, her passion, her strength, and her towering intellect. All of us within the legal community, who are sworn to pursue equality and justice, can learn much from the life of this pioneering icon.

In the wake of her death, The Missouri Bar conveyed a resolution honoring Ms. Freeman. While it only scratches the surface of her many accomplishments, the resolution is reprinted here so that all of us can better appreciate the life of this pioneering lawyer and gain inspiration from her fierce advocacy on behalf of justice.

WHEREAS, members of The Missouri Bar were saddened to learn of the passing of civil rights legend Frankie Muse Freeman on January 12, 2018; and

WHEREAS, she exemplified the highest ideals of the legal profession during her 70 years as a member of The Missouri Bar; and

WHEREAS, throughout her career as a practitioner, she provided outstanding representation to individuals and corporations, not-for-profit organizations and municipal agencies in both state and federal courts; and

WHEREAS, she served as counsel to the NAACP legal team that challenged racial segregation in the St. Louis Public Schools in 1949; and

WHEREAS, five years later she was the lead attorney in the landmark case of Davis v. St. Louis Housing Authority, which ended legal racial discrimination in public housing within the city; and

WHEREAS, she was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson as the first woman to serve on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights – a position to which she was reappointed by presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter; and

WHEREAS, she was a founder of the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights, a group dedicated to ending racial discrimination and devising remedies to counteract its harmful effects; and

WHEREAS, she freely donated her time and expertise to innumerable national and local non-profit entities, including the National Council on Aging, the National Council of Negro Women, Girl Scouts of the United States, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, the United Way of Greater St. Louis, YWCA of Metro St. Louis, and the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP; and

WHEREAS, she was recognized throughout the state and nation as a pioneering civil rights activist whose unrelenting dedication to that cause has improved the lives of her fellow citizens; and

WHEREAS, indicative of her leadership role within the civil rights movement, in 2007 she was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia; and

WHEREAS, in 2011 she received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP and was named St. Louis Citizen of the Year; and

WHEREAS, she was inducted into the National Bar Association’s Hall of Fame; and

WHEREAS, in 2014 she was honored by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession with receipt of the Spirit of Excellence Award, which celebrates the efforts and accomplishments of lawyers who excel in their professional settings, personify excellence, and demonstrate a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity; and

WHEREAS, in 2015 President Barack Obama appointed her as a member of the Commission on Presidential Scholars; and

WHEREAS, throughout her 101 years of life, she consistently displayed a zeal, commitment to justice, and passion for a better and more just society that sets a standard for all who adhere to the rule of law; and

WHEREAS, the energy she displayed for the cause of justice will continue to serve as an ongoing source of inspiration for those who follow her; and

WHEREAS, her life was a testimony to the power of conviction, and brought distinction to The Missouri Bar and to the legal profession’s legacy of work on behalf of the disadvantaged;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Governors of The Missouri Bar does hereby extend, on behalf of all its members, its profound sympathy to the family of Frankie Muse Freeman and, by this resolution, expresses its gratitude for her remarkable contributions to the legal profession and her commitment to justice for all.