Saturday, February 11, 2012
Thanks to Marion Crain (Wash. U.) for alerting us of Bob Belton's Thursday passing. The Vanderbilt website has a nice tribute to him. Below are some of the excerpts. Please feel free to add your own comments to this post to describe how Bob touched your life.
Robert Belton, who retired from a 34-year career as a professor at Vanderbilt Law School in 2009, died Feb. 9 after suffering a stroke. He was 76 years old.
A nationally recognized scholar of labor and employment and civil rights law, Belton joined Vanderbilt’s law faculty in 1975 and became the first African American to be granted tenure at Vanderbilt Law School. He was a popular and beloved teacher and mentor who particularly enjoyed working with students interested in social justice. He played an important role in mentoring minority law students, serving as faculty adviser to the Black Law Students Association and working with other African American faculty on equality issues at Vanderbilt.
A trailblazer in civil rights as an activist, attorney and scholar throughout his career, Belton served from 1965 to 1970 as an assistant counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. At the Legal Defense Fund, he headed a national civil rights litigation campaign to enforce what was then a new federal law prohibiting discrimination in employment because of factors such as race and sex.
Belton had a major role in Griggs v. Duke Power Co, the landmark Supreme Court civil rights case the Legal Defense Fund litigated. Other landmark Supreme Court civil rights cases in which he was involved included Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, which addressed damages in civil rights cases, and Harris v. Forklift Systems, which addressed sexual harassment.
From 1970 to 1975 Belton practiced law as a partner at Chambers Stein Ferguson & Lanning in Charlotte, N.C., one of the first racially integrated firms in the South. The building owned by the firm was fire-bombed at the height of its involvement in a series of landmark civil rights cases, including Swann v. Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court approved busing as a remedy to enforce the Brown v. Board of Education decision.