Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr.

A Leon Higginbotham, Jr.I want to thank everyone for their words of condolences this week. It’s been comforting to hear from so many. With good reason, I’m a week or so late with this topic. The Oxford University Press chose to honor Martin Luther King Jr day (last Monday) with an article on another prominent civil rights leader in the United States, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. Although Judge Higginbotham was not as well known as Martin Luther King or any number of other civil rights leaders, he was prominent in legal circles working for civil rights and a well known advocate for equal rights in South Africa.

I was lucky enough to work for Judge Higginbotham when I was in college. Judge Higginbotham was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, while he was a district court judge, and I was a college student in need of a job. Back in those days the only skill I had was typing, so I found a job opening for a typist on campus. It turned out to be for Judge Higginbotham. It was the hardest I’ve ever had to work to get a job, and one that paid only $6 an hour. I interviewed with graduate students and his secretary. Everyone asked me why I wanted to work for Judge Higginbotham. Many of his staff questioned whether I would fit in (I’d be the only Asian on his staff of mostly African-American students). But through continued nagging, and the fact no one else applied, I finally got the job.

Dr. Higginbotham was the one person who saw nothing wrong with my working for his staff, and was first to welcome me to his team. I worked in both his offices at Penn and in the courthouse. Mostly I typed up briefs and chapters for his book Shades of Freedom. I was also invited to his home for a staff barbeque.

The only time he didn’t support me, was my decision in 1987 to attend the Paul Simon Graceland concert in Philadelphia. It was controversial because Paul Simon recorded parts of it in South Africa, and we were supposed to be boycotting South Africa. But in the end, after Paul Simon agreed to donate the proceeds of the concert to charities that benefited South Africa, he just asked me how I liked the concert, and we went on as if nothing had happened. Judge Higginbotham was truly a remarkable man and it was my honor to work for him.

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About Tim

I'm a Chinese/Taiwanese-American, born in Taiwan, raised on Long Island, went to college in Philadelphia, tried Wall Street and then moved to the California Bay Area to work in high tech in 1990. I'm a recent dad and husband. Other adjectives that describe me include: son, brother, geek, DIYer, manager, teacher, tinkerer, amateur horologist, gay, and occasional couch potato. I write for about 5 different blogs including 8Asians. When not doing anything else, I like to challenge people's preconceived notions of who I should be.
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