March 19th in African American History – Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr.

March 19, 1984 Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., civil rights activist and chief lobbyist for the NAACP, died.

Mitchell was born March 8, 1911 in Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from Lincoln University in 1931 and later earned a law degree from the University of Maryland.

In 1945, he became the first labor secretary of the NAACP and in 1950 he became head of the NAACP Washington office. In that capacity, he was nicknamed “the 101st United States Senator” for his tireless campaigns to secure the passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act, the 1960 Civil Rights Act, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

These efforts earned him the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1969. In 1980, Mitchell was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter. The main court house in Baltimore in named the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse. Also, the engineering building at Morgan State University and the main admission building at the University of Maryland are named in his honor.

A biography, “Lion in the Lobby: Clarence Mitchell, Jr.’s Struggle for Passage of Civil Rights Laws,” was published in 1990.

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