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Hastie, William Henry (1904-1976)

WilliamHenry Hastie, attorney and diplomat, was born on November 17, 1904 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  He spent his childhood in Tennessee until hisfamily moved to Washington, D.C.   Hastie graduated from Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. in 1921 and four years laterreceived his A.B. Degree from Amherst College in Massachusetts.

Following graduation Hastie was offered fellowships for graduate work at OxfordUniversity and the University of Paris. Hastie decided instead to accept a job at New Jersey’s Bordentown ManualSchool where he was on the faculty until 1927, when he entered HarvardUniversity Law School.

In 1930 Hastie received his LL.B. degree from Harvard University.  Shortly afterwards he became a member of the Howard University School of Lawfaculty.  Hastie was also admitted to theDistrict of Columbia Bar in 1931 and practiced law with his cousin Charles Hamilton Houston who laterbecame Dean of the Howard University Law School.  Hastie returned to Harvard in 1933 to receivehis J.D. degree.

In 1933 William Henry Hastie became one of the first African American membersof the Franklin Roosevelt Administration. He was appointed the President’s race relations advisor.  Later he was given the post of assistantsolicitor for the Department of Interior. While working for the Department he wrote a constitution for the VirginIslands, an American territory.

In March 1937, Hastie was appointed judge of the Federal District Court in theVirgin Islands by President Roosevelt, becoming the nation’s first AfricanAmerican Federal judge.  Hastie servedfor two years, and then he resigned in 1939 to become Dean and Professor of Lawat Howard University School of Law.

During his time as Dean, Hastie also served as Civilian Aid to Secretary of WarHenry L. Stimson from 1940 to 1942.  Hastieurged the racial integration of troops. In 1942 he resigned in protest because the Army Air Force decided tocreate a separate training facility for African Americans, and returned to hisduties at Howard University School of Law. Ironically

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