Jewel Stradford Lafontant
Jewel Stradford Lafontant April 28, 1922 – May 31, 1997
Jewel Stradford Lafontant (born Jewel Carter Stradford) was the first African-American to serve as Deputy Solicitor General for the Justice Department, in 1973. President Richard Nixon appointed her to this post. Lafontant's interest in law came from her father, who was a prestigious Supreme Court attorney named Cornelius Francis Stradford. Her father was a co-founder of the National Bar Association - law is in her blood.
As well as being a third generation Republican, Lafontant was a third generation Oberlin College graduate. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Oberlin like her father. Lafontant was the first woman to earn her juris doctor from the University of Chicago Law School in 1946 and passed the Illinois bar the next year.
Though we most celebrate Lafontant’s impact on law and jurisprudence, she was also highly involved with the Civil Rights movement. She co-founded the important Civil Rights group, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), was an officer in the Chicago chapter of the NAACP, served on the board of the ACLU.
President Dwight Eisenhower made Lafontant the first African-American woman to serve as Assistant U.S. attorney in 1955. In order to prove her worth in a male dominated profession, Lafontant remained sharp and active in the legal community. She became treasurer of the Cook County Bar Association and was later elected secretary of the National Bar Association - a position she held for eight years.
Lafontant won the first case she ever argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, State of Illinois vs. Beatrice Lynum. That case was cited in the famous Miranda vs. State of Arizona, a Supreme Court case that guaranteed all people suspected of committing a crime are entitled to be warned of their constitutional rights.