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Courthouse named for Harvard law professor who taught Obamas

Charles J. Ogletree Jr.
Posted at 4:22 PM, Feb 18, 2023

A courthouse in California's agricultural heartland was named for a native son who went from working in the fields to a distinguished career at Harvard Law School, where he taught Barack and Michelle Obama.

Family members and supporters attended a ceremony Friday naming the Merced County courthouse to honor Charles James Ogletree Jr.'s contributions to law, education and civil rights, the Fresno Bee reported.

Ogletree, 70, represented Anita Hill when she accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991, and he defended the late rapper Tupac Shakur in criminal and civil cases. He also fought unsuccessfully for reparations for members of Tulsa, Oklahoma's Black community who survived a 1921 race massacre by white people.

The legal scholar, who retired from Harvard in 2020 after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, did not attend. But a brother and sister were among dozens of people, including judges and notable community members.

Ogletree has spoken of his humble roots, where he grew up in poverty on the south side of the railroad tracks in Merced in an area of Black and brown families. His parents were seasonal farm laborers, and he picked peaches, almonds and cotton in the summer. He went to college at Stanford University and then Harvard Law School.

Richard Ogletree said if his brother had been present for the ceremony, he would expect him to say what he has heard him say in previous speeches and presentations: “I stand on the shoulders of others.”

“He always wants to give credit to others and not accept credit himself, which he so richly deserves," said Ogletree, who called his brother his hero.