1881 December 12

Arthur Garfield Hays, Noted Civil Libertarian, Is Born


Arthur Garfield Hays was a prominent civil libertarian who served as co-General Counsel for the ACLU from the 1920s until his death in 1954. Highlights of his career include serving as co-counsel, with Clarence Darrow, in the famous Scopes Monkey Trial over the right to teach evolution in the Tennessee schools (see the beginning of the trial on July 10, 1925); his willingness to go to the coal fields of West Virginia and Pennsylvania to defend the First Amendment rights of coal miners, on occasion at the risk of his life; and his direct involvement in demonstrations in Jersey City, New Jersey, that led to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, in Hague v. CIO, affirming the right of freedom of assembly (see June 5, 1939). On May 19, 1938, during the Jersey City struggle, he was forcibly evicted from the city by the police.

Hays was also a vigorous champion of racial justice. He represented Winfred Lynn in his challenge of the racially segregated draft in World War II after the NAACP declined to take the case (see December 4, 1942). On April 8, 1943, he resigned from the American Bar Association because of its refusal to admit African-Americans.

Learn more about Hays and the early years of the ACLU: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990)

Read Hays’s account of his early cases: Arthur Garfield Hays, Let Freedom Ring (1928)

Watch an interview with Hays: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOK6eu9s4Zk

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