Civil rights attorney Solomon Seay dies at age 81

Solomon Seay, Jr. was a trailblazing civil rights attorney, activist and author whose fifty year groundbreaking legal career included the Selma to Montgomery March, the Freedom Riders and public school desegregation in the landmark Lee v. Macon decision, among several other civil rights cases that brought about positive change to the rights of minorities in the US.

A native of Montgomery, Alabama, Seay received his undergraduate degree in 1952 from Livingston College in North Carolina, served two years in the Army, and graduated from Howard University School of Law in Washington, DC in 1957. Returning to Montgomery where he was one of only three black civil rights lawyers, Seay’s incredible legal career paved the way to the desegregation of public schools and public accommodations, the protection of Freedom Riders and voting rights activists, and ensured equal rights for African Americans throughout the country.

Notable accomplishments include:

  • Litigation of significant cases in practically every area of civil rights, including race-based and gender-based employment discrimination, access to public accommodations, and police brutality
  • Served frequently as counsel to the Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP
  • Secured the release of hundreds of Freedom Riders and voting rights activists in the early 1960s and represented countless distinguished civil rights leaders including Stokely Carmichael, Congressman John Lewis, and Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy
  • Spearheaded the desegregation of Montgomery public parks, courtrooms and courthouse facilities
  • Established the right for blacks to serve on a jury in state and federal courts
  • Credited with being the most active lawyer for over 40 years in the litigation to enforce desegregation for students, faculty, and staff throughout the state of Alabama’s public schools and universities with the landmark case Lee v Macon, desegregation litigation which served as the vehicle for enforcing the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v Board of Education
  • Published his 2009 memoir, Jim Crow and Me: Stories from My Life as a Civil Rights Lawyer

Significant cases:

  • Trial counsel with partners Vernon Crawford and Fred D. Gray on The New York Times v Sullivan, another Supreme Court case which resulted in the rewriting of the United States libel laws
  • Lead counsel in defense of The Todd Road Eleven of Montgomery County, AL
  • Williams v Wallace, co-counsel with Fred D. Gray, a precursor of The Voting Rights Act, an injunction that restrained defendants from interfering with the Selma to Montgomery March.
  • Thomas, Thomas, Seay, and Seay, Jr v The Board of Commissioners of the State Bar of Alabama, requiring all Alabama Bar Association functions be open to all members regardless of race
  • Seay v Patterson, John F. Knight Jr., et al., v the State of Alabama, et al., and several other noteworthy cases

Solomon Seay Jr. was also the proud father of attorney partner Quinton S. Seay of Stewart, Seay and Felton Trial Attorneys in Atlanta, Georgia.

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