7/31/12 Meria Interviews Katie McCabe, award winning writer, co-author with Dovey Johnson Roundtree of “Justice Older Than the Law”. Dovey is an American treasure, yet many don’t know of her courageous life. Dovey defended the man chosen to be the patsy for the murder of Mary Pinchot Meyer, lover of JFK who was murdered for what she knew. how Katie met Dovey. The great personal cost of following her destiny; the important mentors of Dovey’s and her relationship with her grandmother; 1946 an African American WOMAN entering the law was unheard of; the abuse she had to withstand; Fighting Jim Crow in the army and the courts; The movie “The Help”; domestic for a rich white family to save for school; Paying it forward; Dovey was born in 1914 in Jim Crow’s Charlotte; treated as an alien practicing law in the 50′s; her most notorious case “The U.S. vs. Ray Crump”; winning the case despite not knowing the truth about Mary’s diary, CIA involvement, etc; How the case came to be Dovey’s; Trial on the eve of the Watts Riots and the Voting Act; her lethal cross-examination style; the “Dovinator”; the case couldn’t be sealed, thus the work of Peter Janney in “Mary’s Mosiac” (see archives). A true American legend and hero.
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From the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, to the segregated courtrooms of the nation's capital, from the white male bastion of the World War II Army to the male stronghold of Howard University Law School, from the pulpits of churches where women had waited for years for the right to minister-in all these places Dovey Johnson Roundtree (b. 1914) sought justice. Though she is a legendary African American figure in the legal community of Washington, D.C., she remains largely unknown to the American public.
Justice Older than the Law is her story, the product of a remarkable, ten-year collaboration with National Magazine Award winner Katie McCabe. As a protégé of Mary McLeod Bethune, Roundtree became one of the first women to break the gender and color barriers in the United States military. Inspired by Thurgood Marshall and James Madison Nabrit, Jr., at Howard University Law School, Roundtree went on to make history by winning a 1955 bus desegregation case, Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company. That decision demolished "separate but equal" in the realm of interstate transportation and enabled Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to combat southern resistance to the Freedom Riders' campaign in 1961.
At a time when black attorneys had to leave the courthouses to use the bathrooms, Roundtree took on Washington's white legal establishment and prevailed. She led the vanguard of women ordained to the ministry in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1961 and merged her law practice with her ministry to fight for families and children being destroyed by urban violence. Hers is a vision of biblical and social justice older by far than the law, and her life story speaks movingly and urgently to our racially troubled times.