Kobre & Kim Honors William Hastie for Black History Month

February 19, 2021

In honor of Black History Month, Kobre & Kim continues to reflect on the unique contributions of Black Americans both inside and outside of the legal industry. This week, we celebrate trailblazing civil rights advocate, diplomat and judge William Henry Hastie.

Mr. Hastie was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on November 17, 1904. He went on to study at Amherst College in Massachusetts and at Harvard Law where he received both LLB and JSD degrees by 1933. That same year, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Hastie as a race relations advisor as part of his role as Assistant Solicitor for the U.S. Department of the Interior. Among other accomplishments in this position, Hastie helped write the constitution of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Mr. Hastie’s impressive accomplishments led to his appointment to the Federal District Court in the Virgin Islands in 1937, becoming the nation’s first Black American federal judge. After spending 7 years as Dean of the Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C, Mr. Hastie was appointed as Governor of the Virgin Islands by President Harry Truman in 1946. He left office in 1949, becoming the first Black American to complete a term as a Governor of a U.S. state or territory.

Soon thereafter, Mr. Hastie was appointed as a judge for the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals where he would serve until 1971. Mr. Hastie’s lifelong commitment to civil rights, diplomacy, and justice paved the way for a generation of Black American lawyers, judges and diplomats.