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HOLLIS 601657

Hastie, William. Papers, 1916-1976: Finding Aid

Harvard Law School Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard Law School

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Harvard Depository
Call No.: HOLLIS 601657
Repository: Harvard Law School Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Hastie, William, 1904-1976
Title: William Hastie papers
Date(s): 1916-1976
Quantity: 137 boxes
Language of materials: English
Abstract: The papers of William Henry Hastie relate to his professional career, mainly starting with 1937, until his death in 1976; to his interest in and championship of civic causes; and to his efforts in behalf of anti-discrimination. There are small groups of drafts of speeches and of biographical material, the latter relating to his various appointments, and to academic and civic honors.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

The papers of William Henry Hastie (1904-1976), attorney, educator, civil servant, judge, were presented to the Harvard Law School Library as a gift between December 15, 1979 and July 1, 1981 by his daughter, Karen Hastie Williams, and son, William Henry, Jr.

Processing Information:

Compiled by Erika S. Chadbourn, Lynne Hollyer and Richard McNally, 1984.

Conditions Governing Access:

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use:

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.

Existence and Location of Copies:

The William Hastie Papers is available on microfilm; see the HOLLIS record for more information. Researchers are required to use the microfilm copy of the collection.

Historical/Biographical Information


Honorary degrees:



Series List

Scope and Contents

The papers of William Henry Hastie span the years 1916 to 1976, with the bulk of the papers falling into the period from his nomination to the bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by President Harry S. Truman, October 15, 1949, to the time of his death on April 14, 1976.
The collection includes correspondence (both letters received and carbons of letters sent); handwritten, typed, and printed drafts; slip sheets of legal opinion; lists and tabulations; memoranda; reports; dockets; agenda of meetings; research materials and notes; clippings; legal and legislative documents; other printed items; manuscripts of published and unpublished writings; and a small amount of memorabilia such as honorary degree certificates. Photographic items have been transferred to the Law Library's Art Collection.
In sheer physical volume, three-fourths of Judge Hastie's papers are Court-related (67 of the 110 manuscript boxes plus 22 cartons of briefs holding one cubic foot each). Together they constitute a fine documentation of the workings of a U.S. Appeals Court and of the day-by-day judicial and administrative activities of one of its judges.
The files of Judge Hastie's own opinions are contained in 28 manuscript boxes and cover the October terms 1949 to his death in April 1976. These files are arranged in two alphabets: (1)-Opinions by Hastie while sitting on his own Court, and (2) Opinions while sitting on other Federal Courts. The listing of all of the cases includes the citations from the Federal Reporter, type of opinion (opinion, dissent, etc.), and in the case of sittings on other Courts, the name of the Court. There is also an incomplete set of slip sheets, contained in 11 additional manuscript boxes.
Judge Hastie's opinion files include his opinions (for the majority), concurring opinions, dissents, concurring dissents, orders, and a considerable number of per curiams. Unlike Justices Louis Dembitz Brandeis and Felix Frankfurther of the Supreme Court of the United States, who kept the first drafts of all of their opinions, Hastie kept drafts only occasionally, chiefly for opinions which he wrote while sitting in Federal Courts other than his own. Unlike Judge Learned Hand, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge for the Second Circuit for thirty-six years, who retained a complete set of his Court memoranda, Judge Hastie did not keep his memoranda of the judicial conferences. Essentially, Judge Hastie retained carbon copies of the final typed draft of his opinions together with other items relevant to a particular case such as research notes of his law clerks and any correspondence he had with his fellow judges. Such correspondence might relate to questions about a particular point in Hastie's draft; to phrasing of a particular passage; to matters of rehearing, filing, and reporting of a given case; or the question of a hearing en banc. Included may also be expressions of admiration from his Brethren for an especially fine or incisive opinion in a difficult case; printed background material; Hastie's own notes to his clerks; copies of dissents of fellow judges, or, in case of a dissent by Hastie, copies of the opinion of the majority; correspondence with officers of the Court; copies of affidavits and lower Court opinions; occasional typed briefs; and clippings.
Opinions that Hastie wrote for which he retained more than the usual amount of material are:
Of special interest are Judge Hastie's opinions written for the Temporary Emergency Court of Appeals. This Court was created by Congress under the Economic Stabilization Act Amendments of 1971, and it has exclusive jurisdiction of all appeals from the District Courts of the United States in cases and controversies arising under the economic stabilization laws; it consists of eight district and circuit judges designated by the Chief Justice. Hastie was appointed to this Court by Chief Justice Warren Burger in 1972, and he sat on it until his death in 1976. Some of the TECA cases for which he retained more than the usual amount of material are:
In addition to his own opinions, Hastie retained copies of draft opinions written and sent to him for comment by fellow judges, essentially by his Brethren on the Third Circuit. Many of these cases are appeals on which Hastie sat but on which one or the other judge of the customary three-judge bench wrote the opinion. Included in this Series is correspondence relating to these cases, and motions to dismiss and petitions for rehearing, including Hastie's decisions on these motions and petitions.
Hastie's opinion files are complemented by administrative files relating to matters concerning the Court of Appeals judges of the Third Circuit and their staffs, the U.S. District Courts within the Third Circuit and their respective judges and officers, and the relations between the Third Circuit and the Administrative Offices for the Circuits in Washington. Some of the categories included in the Series are: memoranda of Hastie as Chief Judge; reports of committees and subcommittees; assignments of cases and Hastie's own assignments to sit on other Courts; designations; dockets; programs of and correspondence about the annual Judicial Conference of the Third Circuit and of the United States; analyses of new bills affecting the Court such as the Criminal Justice Act of 1964 and the Omnibus Judgeship Bill of 1969, including the text of Hastie's statement of May 6, 1969 on the latter bill before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Improvements in Judicial Machinery; subject files on bail reform, bankruptcy, judicial conduct standards, and judicial salaries; and memorials written by Hastie upon the death of colleagues.
Three groups loom largest among the administrative Court files: correspondence on hiring of law clerks (39 folders), the Judicial Council files (18 folders), and the Temporary Emergency Court of Appeals files (16 folders). Extraneous matters which Hastie had to deal with were plans for the new Federal Courthouse in Philadelphia, hiring of non-judicial personnel, and furnishings for offices.
The Hastie Court files are a rich source for students of the workings of a lower Federal Court and the personalities that give flavor to such a Court. Judge Hastie emerges as a dignified, conscientious judge who researched his cases thoroughly, who was a perfectionist in the art and craft of opinion writing, and a compassionate colleague. In addition they attest to the respect in which he was held by fellow Court members and by the legal community outside the courtroom.
Hastie's papers relating to Non-judicial, Non-segregation Activities/Subjects cover a wide spectrum of interests and involvements. They include correspondence, agenda, minutes of meetings, reports, memoranda, notes, and newspaper clippings; and they range from his role as delegate to the 1961 African Conference on the Rule of Law in Lagos, Nigeria, to his membership on boards of trustees, directors, commissions or committees of institutions such as Amherst College,The American Law Institute,the Caribbean Commission, the Council on Legal Education for Professional Responsibility, Inc., the Harry S. Truman Library Institute, the Harvard Law School Visiting Committee,Howard University,National Lawyers Guild,Practicing Lawyers Institute, and the Virgin Island Company. Other files document his deep concern, as a resident of Philadelphia, with community issues and institutions such as the Albert Einstein Medical Center,Defender Association of Philadelphia,Fellowship House,Inc., Free Library of Philadelphia,Youth Conservation Commission of the Department of Welfare,Otto Haas Charitable Trust,Philadelphia Council for Community Advancement,Temple University, and University of Pennsylvania. Of special interest are materials relating to his Governorship of the Virgin Islands which include the reprint of the Senate Hearings on his appointment; five folders relating to a trip he took to India and Malaya, in 1965, under the auspices of the United States Information Service; and three folders relating to the Commission on White House Fellows to which he was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and on which he served from 1965 to 1969.
Writing, lecturing, and delivering occasional talks was another important activity of Hastie's. His Writings, Lectures, Speeches Series includes manuscripts in holograph, typed, and printed form; correspondence relating to arrangement for delivery and for publication of special lectures; notes; and invitations to speak. The Series is of specific significance as it contains a very large number of occasional talks which were not published. Hastie's drafts of his manuscripts, with their many corrections and additions, reflect Hastie's striving for the perfect word or the perfect sentence. Major lecture series which he delivered were the Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Devise Lectures at the Washington University School of Law (1964); the Owen J. Roberts Memorial Lecture at the University of Pennsylvania Law School (1973); the Francis Biddle Memorial Lecture at the Harvard Law school (1974); and the David C. Baum Memorial Lecture on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the University of Illinois College of Law (1975). In addition, Hastie read a paper at the Harvard Law School's John Marshall Bicentennial Conference (1955). Included in the miscellaneous writings are manuscripts of book reviews. Some of Hastie's occasional talks are dated and/or carry titles, some are unidentified, and some are only fragments. There are fairly extensive notes on the lectures that he delivered at the Salzburg (Austria) Seminar in American Studies where he was a faculty member of the legal session in the Summer of 1957. The profusion of occasional talks and their predominantly civil-rights oriented topics demonstrate Hastie's willingness and courage to speak out publicly on controversial issues of his time.
Hastie's Activities/Subject Series, which includes the correspondence pertaining to specific activities and subjects, is complemented by his Miscellaneous Correspondence Series. This particular group was kept by Hastie as a strictly chronological file, and this arrangement has been preserved. Some of this correspondence also covers and frequently overlaps concerns represented in more detail in the last four Series which deal with segregation/discrimination and personal/biographical matters. Both incoming and copies of outgoing letters are included, with Hastie's reply generally attached to the front of the incoming item.
The one hundred and eighty-two folders in the Miscellaneous Correspondence Series cover the period December 1949 to Hastie's death in April 1976; one folder contains earlier letters, one folder posthumous correspondence. This Series represents day-by-day mail routinely received from friends, casual acquaintances, and strangers. It pertains to such matters as social, professional, and media engagements, and a variety of civil rights concerns. It includes requests for recommendations, for contribution of articles and for photographs of himself; appeals for money; invitations to join various professional or civic organizations; and a sizeable amount of congratulatory letters relating to some of his lectures, honorary degrees, and special awards such as the Biddle Lecture (1974), the Philadelphia Award (1975), and the honorary degree from Harvard (1975).
Prominent figures represented in Miscellaneous Correspondence are civil rights leaders Ralph Bunche,Pauli Murray, and Walter White; U.S. Supreme Court members Felix Frankfurter,Arthur J. Goldberg, and Warren E. Burger; law professors Derrick A. Bell,Derek C. Bok,Paul A. Freund,Erwin N. Griswold,Fowler V. Harper, and Albert N. Sacks; writers, academics, political figures, and diplomats like Chester Bowles,Henry Steele Commager,Sam Ervin,Averill Harriman,Hubert H. Humphrey,Nelson Rockefeller,Eleanor Roosevelt, and Robert Penn Warren. Of special interest is a telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King, ca. January 15, 1957, seeking Hastie's "expression of support and advice" for a conference of black civil rights leaders of about a dozen southern states who were planning to meet in Atlanta to discuss the flagrant and defiant disregard in the South of Supreme Court decisions on transportation. Hastie's reply was a night letter addressed to the "Leadership Conference, Attn: Rev. M.L. King," which read: "Like founders of our country and signers of Declaration of Independence you are risking your lives and substance that Americans may live as free men under law in democratic society. All who believe our country and its institutions are worth preserving should respect, admire and support you. William H. Hastie." Hastie retained his holograph draft of this night letter also, which shows a number of changes he made before he was satisfied.
Hastie's segregation/discrimination files fall into three groups: NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) files, segregation/discrimination in the Armed Services, and other miscellaneous subject files. Hastie was a member of the NAACP from the early 1930's until his death in 1976 and served on its board of directors, from 1941 to 1968, of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. His files show his close ties with the NAACP and his deep involvement in its struggles. Materials included in the NAACP Series are Hastie's correspondence and memoranda exchanged with members of the two boards such as Allan Knight Chalmers,William T. Coleman,John W. Davis,Jack Greenberg,Thurgood Marshall,Henry Lee Moon,Arthur B. Spingarn,Earl Weaver,Walter White, and Roy Wilkins. Correspondence relates to such matters as meetings; officers and staff; local branches; projects to be supported; application for grants; unfavorable news media coverage; harmonious cooperation between the Association and the "Inc. Fund" (as the Legal Defense and Educational Fund was known among board members); and problems of division of spheres of activity, e.g. Fund was to handle all segregation cases. Two folders contain correspondence and memoranda re Brown v. Board of Education and show clearly the part Hastie played, namely in reviewing the briefs prepared by Thurgood Marshall and others and in fundraising efforts. A large segment of papers consists of mimeographed material, e.g., reports, agenda and minutes of board meetings, income statements, committee membership lists, and petitions. Additional folders contain clippings; typescripts of pieces and statements of Hastie in support of Federal anti-lynching legislation, 1940; papers relating to Hastie's involvement in the North Carolina teachers' salary fight, 1933; and Hastie's service as a member of the Spingarn Medal Award Committee, 1969-1975.
In December 1940 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed Howard Law School Dean William Henry Hastie Civilian Aide to the Secretary of War to detect and investigate discriminatory practices regarding blacks in the military, to make recommendations to integrate the Armed Services, and to monitor this process of integration. Two years later, January 5, 1943, Hastie handed his resignation to Secretary of war Henry L. Stimson. In five successive releases to the press Hastie stated that he had been largely ignored and that the Armed Forces had consistently refused to clear with him policies affecting the training, housing, and utilization of black officers and enlisted men, in particular those in the Army Air Force. Hastie felt that by taking this public stand and by calling the attention of the whole nation to this untenable situation he could be more effective than by remaining in a post where he had no influence or power to affect any changes.
In June of that same year, 1943, the NAACP held a three-day emergency meeting in Detroit on the "Status of the Negro in the War for Freedom"; this meeting replaced the annual July conference of the NAACP. The climax of the meeting was the presentation of the Arthur B. Spingarn medal in Briggs Stadium [home of the Detroit Tigers] before an assembly of 50,000 people. The Spingarn award was instituted in 1914 by Joel E. Spingarn, then Chairman of the NAACP; it is a gold medal awarded annually by the NAACP Board of Directors "to an American Negro who has made the highest and noblest achievement during the preceding year or years." Announcing this presentation, the Award Committee said: "William Henry Hastie is selected as Twenty-eighth Spingarn Medalist for his distinguished career as jurist and as uncompromising champion of equal justice...His every act, and particularly his protest against racial bigotry in an army fighting for the preservation of the democratic processes, has established a standard of character and conduct which the Spingarn Medal Award Committee is honored to recognize by the selection of Judge Hastie..."
Hastie's files documenting his two years in the highest Cabinet post any black had held in this country up to that time are perhaps the most fascinating of all his papers. They include historical materials he gathered and took notes on and files he assembled on a multitude of facets of discrimination. One such file is alphabetically subdivided by categories, e.g., blood plasma; medical officers and nurses; military police; officers candidate program; special services and recreation; transportation discrimination; and troop unit bases. Additional folders contain testimonies by black soldiers regarding specific instances of discrimination and violence perpetrated against them and a letter dated November 26, 1943 of author Alexander Haley who was serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, addressed to Hastie, describing the situation of the Black in the Service. Hastie's memoranda to various commanders show his compassion for the plight of the black servicemen, his concern with the urgency of changing the status quo, and his frustration over being brushed aside or ignored altogether. His "Personal File III" contains items relating to his resignation, e.g., correspondence, copies of his letter of resignation, memoranda, statements, clippings, copies of the full text of his five press releases, and letters he received expressing regret over his decision and commendation for his courage, together with carbons of Hastie's replies; this file also includes some material of his own follow-up on the interrogation process in the military during the remainder of World War II.
The last group, Segregation/Discrimination: Miscellany, relates to specific civil rights areas which were of concern to Hastie, e.g., housing; segregation in recreation in the District of Columbia; the absence of Crisis, the national organ of the NAACP, from public school libraries; and enforcement of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Four folders contain materials on legal cases of the 1930's and 1940's in which Hastie represented the appellants, e.g., Street v. Tucker; Hocutt v. Wilson, a 1933 discrimination case against the University of North Carolina; and Mitchell v. Wright. Hastie retained ten folders of correspondence, memoranda, transcripts of papers, bibliographies, and reports of the so-called Haverford Group of MARC (Metropolitan Applied Research Center, Inc.), a discussion group of which Hastie was a member beginning with 1969. One folder documents Hastie's Chairmanship of the 1965 White House Conference " To Fulfill These Rights, " an administration-of-justice panel which addressed itself to the problems of crime and police-community relations; included in the folder are two letters from Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey thanking Hastie for his participation. There is also one folder containing exchanges between Hastie and former President Truman on 1960 civil rights issues.
The last group of papers, Personal-Biographical, rounds out the picture of Hastie as he emerges in the preceding Series. There is a scattering of school items; folders relating to his public and judicial appointments including congratulatory letters; folders relating to testimonial dinners in his honor and to honorary degree ceremonies; biographical sketches; a scrapbook covering his years as U.S. District Judge in the Virgin Islands; documentation of his participation, on behalf of Harry S. Truman, in the 1948 presidential campaign including personal expressions of gratitude by Truman; a copy of Hastie's acceptance remarks at the ceremony at which he received the prestigious Philadelphia Award, in April 1975, one year before his death. Printed items include transcripts of hearings held on some of his appointments, citations and certificates of membership, copies of tributes to Hastie spoken at memorial services held in his honor, and miscellaneous clippings.
The November 1976 issue of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review (Vol. 125, No. 1) is dedicated to the memory of Judge Hastie and carries tributes by Dean Louis H. Pollak, Judges Collins J. Seitz and Spottswood W. Robinson III, and Roy Wilkins. In his own tribute Dean Pollak says of the essays of the other three men that they "illustrate especially Hastie's dominant attributes: his intellectual power, his unflagging energy, and his unremitting commitment to principle." The papers of Judge Hastie here at the Harvard Law School Library also superbly document these attributes, and they constitute a rich source for the study of this man of personal humility and of towering moral and intellectual stature.


Note: Number Following Case Name Indicates Paige Box or Boxes

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Civil rights.
Law --United States.
Justice, Administration of
Courts --United States.
Judges --United States.
African Americans --Segregation.
Baldwin, Roger Nash, 1884-1981.
Beale, Joseph Henry, 1861-1943.
Bell, Derrick Albert.
Bethune, Mary McLeod, 1875-1955.
Biggs, John Steven, 1940-
Bok, Curtis.
Bok, Derek Curtis.
Bowles, Chester, 1901-
Bunche, Ralph J. (Ralph Johnson), 1904-1971.
Burger, Warren E., 1907-
Chafee, Zechariah, 1885-1957.
Clark, Thomas Campbell, 1899-
Commager, Henry Steele, 1902-
Corcoran, Thomas Gardiner.
Dash, Samuel.
Ervin, Sam J. (Sam James), 1896-1985.
Ferguson, Clarence Clyde.
Frankfurter, Felix, 1882-1965.
Freund, Paul Abraham, 1908-
Gibbons, John J.
Greenberg, Jack, 1924-
Goodrich, Herbert Funk, 1889-1962.
Griswold, Erwin N. (Erwin Nathaniel), 1904-
Haley, Alex.
Harriman, W. Averell (William Averell), 1891-1986.
Hastie, William.
Hoffman, Louis.
Houston, Charles Hamilton, 1895-1950.
Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978.
Jaworski, Leon.
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973.
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968.
Lewis, Sinclair, 1885-1951.
Marshall, Thurgood, 1908-1993.
Murray, Pauli, 1910-
Pound, Roscoe, 1870-1964.
Pusey, Nathan Marsh, 1907-
Rockefeller, John D., 1906-
Rockefeller, Nelson A. (Nelson Aldrich), 1908-1979.
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962.
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945.
Rosen, James.
Sacks, Albert Martin, 1920-
Seitz, Collins J.
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972.
Warren, Robert Penn, 1905-
Wechsler, Herbert, 1909-
White, Walter Francis, 1893-1955.
Wilkins, Roy, 1901-
Wolfman, Bernard, 1924-
Wolkin, Paul A.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.