EARL B. DICKERSON

EARL B. DICKERSON (1891 – 1986)
 Earl B. Dickerson, dubbed "the Dean of Chicago’s Black lawyers," was the first Black graduate from the University of Chicago Law School.

He was born in Canton, Mississippi, June 23, 1891. Fleeing the racial oppression of his native South, he moved to Chicago when he was 15 only to become a pioneering architect for racial and social equality in Chicago's communities such as the Law School's home, Hyde Park. A graduate of the University of Illinois in 1913, he taught for a year at Tuskegee University in Alabama before he completed a law degree here at the University of Chicago Law School in 1920.

His career led him to become the first general counsel of the Supreme Life Insurance Company of America, one of the largest Black-owned insurance companies. He then later became the company's president and chairman of the board. He helped organize the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1939. He was also the first Black Democratic alderman elected to the Chicago City Council; a member of FDR's first Fair Employment Practices Committee; and leader of the movement that broke the color barrier to membership in the Illinois Bar Association.

Throughout his academic and professional career, Earl B. Dickerson saw that much of what he escaped in the South was quite prevalent in Chicago's neighborhoods. Specifically, in Hyde Park, the use of restrictive housing covenants prevented Blacks from obtaining housing in the southern Chicago neighborhood. Perhaps Earl B. Dickerson is most famously known as the power behind Hansberry v. Lee, the U.S. Supreme Court case in which Hansberry (father to Lorraine Hansberry, playwright and author of A Raisin in the Sun) had purchased property in an area south of Washington Park that was governed by a race restrictive covenant. Hansberry won in the Supreme Court and this victory marked the beginning of the end of restrictive real estate covenants in Hyde Park and was one of the most pernicious legal tools of segregation in the North. Earl Dickerson died September 1, 1986 in Chicago, Illinois.

(source: Hyde Park Herald)