Appeals judge raised in Luverne

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2005

Two years of fighting came to an end last week when the Senate confirmed California judge and Luverne native Janice Rogers Brown to the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

&uot;During her tenure on the California Supreme Court and California Court of Appeal, Justice Brown has distinguished herself as a brilliant and fair-minded jurist who is committed to the rule of law,&uot; President Bush said in a statement.

Brown, the popular choice among Republicans because of her conservative viewpoint, was born in Greenville in 1949. She grew up in Luverne and when her parents split up she moved to California with her mother. Her family was Democrats and involved in the Civil Rights movement in Alabama.

Havard Richburg, a family friend, remembers teaching Brown's father at the Woodford Avenue School, which now houses the Crenshaw County Board of Education.

"Janice was just a baby at the time," Richburg said.

By the time Brown left for California, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement was picking up steam. In 1963, almost a decade after Brown vs. Board of Education ended segregation,

U.S. District Judge Frank M. Johnson ordered Alabama's public schools to comply. Luverne remained segregated for at least two more years.

Bruce Hartford was a Civil Rights worker who worked extensively in the South during the 60s. He now lives in California. Hartford came to Crenshaw County in 1964 and worked as a part of SCOPE (Summer Community Organizing Political Education) to help register blacks to vote.

Hartford said he remembered a Crenshaw County remarkably divided during the 60s.

"Someone once said 'The map is not the territory,'" said Hartford. "On a map, Crenshaw County and Luverne appeared to be a single county and town, but in reality there were two completely separate, totally distinct, and utterly unequal Crenshaws and Luvernes, — one Black, one white, — sharing only the geography."

Richburg recalled Hartford and Hartford said had it not been for the black community – led by the Richburgs, Kolbs and Wares – volunteers like himself would have truly been fighting an uphill battle.

"As civil rights workers, the black community welcomed us with love, acceptance, respect, and trust regardless of our color," said Hartford. "Some of us were black, some were white, but to the black community we were all Freedom Fighters together and we were theirs."

Ironically, Hartford opposes Brown's appointment. Democrats and liberals alike have attacked Brown's criticisms on affirmitave action, abortion rights, among others.

"I oppose the appointment of Judge Brown to the federal bench because of the content of her character, regardless of the color of her skin," said Hartford. "That’s what 'equality' means; judging people by their deeds, not their color."

Richburg, though, chooses to look past Brown's decisions and ideology and at where and what she came from as the daughter of a sharecropper living through a tumultuous time.

And then excelling in life.

"Janice Brown," he said, "deserves everything she gets."