WASHINGTON, DC–(Marketwired – October 17, 2016) – We at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) were saddened to hear of the death of Jack Greenberg. He was a true American icon and champion of equality and justice in America.
“Jack Greenberg’s legacy as a fighter for civil rights cannot be overstated. More than half a century ago, he took many bold, principled stands and turned them into legal victories benefiting millions of Americans. Today, we are unfortunately again hearing in our political discourse the language of hate, spoken with the message of fear. This troubling rhetoric is a powerful reminder that progress made towards equality by Jack must be vigorously defended and never taken for granted” said Javier Palomarez, President & CEO of the USHCC.
“It is difficult to summarize his influence on the progress of diversity and integration of this country with words, however, we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Few have contributed more than Jack Greenberg to enshrining some of the most powerful legal protections we enjoy today” said USHCC Chairman Don Salazar.
Nina Vaca, Chairman Emeritus of the USHCC said: “One important lesson we can draw upon from the life of Jack Greenberg is that a commitment to fairness and equality knows no race, religion, or gender. We are stronger as a country when we all have each other’s best interests at heart, rather than merely our own. While much progress has been made in the decades since Jack began his work, more remains to be done. We must honor his memory by continuing with the same conviction, dedication, and energy.”
At a time of bitter segregation in the south, Jack started as the only white legal counselor and spent 35 years with the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education fund, where he worked with another civil rights icon, and eventual Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall. In that role, he and Marshall won the nation’s most famous civil rights case, Brown vs. Board of Education, which mandated equal treatment of students regardless of color in all public schools. The decision led to the eventual desegregation of all government facilities and most public and business entities across the nation.
But his win in Brown was one of many cases that championed human rights. In 1970, he helped eliminate promotion and employment based on biased and prejudiced testing. A few years later, he won a case that declared the death penalty as ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ in the way that it was applied in the 1970s.
More than his work in the courtroom, Jack was a founding member of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and Human Rights Watch. Also, he was a World War II veteran and fought in two of the nation’s most brutal Pacific battles on the islands of Okinawa and Iwo Jima.
His dedication to human rights earned him a Presidential Citizens Medal from then President Bill Clinton in 2001.
His courage in the face of prejudice is one that will last beyond his years. His legacy will be one we will never forget.