Dovey Roundtree

Dovey Roundtree

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Dovey Johnson Roundtree was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1942 she joined the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) . After the war she became a student at the Howard Law School and graduated in 1950. At the time there were only 83 black women lawyers in the United States compared to 6,165 white women.

Roundtree established a law firm (Roundtree, Knox, Hunter & Parker) to serve the black community in Northwest Washington, D.C. Reeves in the Sarah Keys v the Carolina Coach Company. Roundtree won the case with the court ruling: “We find that the practice of defendant requiring that Negro interstate passengers occupy space or seats in specified portions of it’s buses, subject such passengers to unjust discrimination, and undue and unreasonable prejudice and disadvantage, in violation of section 216(d) of the act, and is therefor unlawful.”

On 12th October, 1964, Mary Pinchot Meyer was shot dead as she walked along the Chesapeake and Ohio towpath in Georgetown. Henry Wiggins, a car mechanic, was working on a vehicle on Canal Road, when he heard a woman shout out: "Someone help me, someone help me". He then heard two gunshots. Wiggins ran to the edge of the wall overlooking the tow path. He later told police he saw "a black man in a light jacket, dark slacks, and a dark cap standing over the body of a white woman."

Mary appeared to be killed by a professional hitman. The first bullet was fired at the back of the head. She did not die straight away. A second shot was fired into the heart. The evidence suggests that in both cases, the gun was virtually touching Mary’s body when it was fired. As the FBI expert testified, the “dark haloes on the skin around both entry wounds suggested they had been fired at close-range, possibly point-blank”.

Soon afterwards Raymond Crump, a black man, was found not far from the murder scene. He was arrested and charged with Mary's murder. Police tests were unable to show that Crump had fired the .38 caliber Smith and Wesson gun. There were no trace of nitrates on his hands or clothes. Despite an extensive search of the area no gun could be found. This included a two day search of the tow path by 40 police officers. The police also drained the canal near to the murder scene. Police scuba divers searched the waters away from where Mary was killed. However, no gun could be found. Nor could the prosecution find any link between Crump and any Smith and Wesson gun.

Crump’s lawyer, Dovey Roundtree, was convinced of his innocence. A civil rights lawyer who defended him for free, she argued that Crump was so timid and feeble-minded that if he had been guilty he would have confessed everything while being interrogated by the police.

No newspaper reports identified the true work of her former husband, Cord Meyer. He was described as a government official or an author. A large number of journalists knew that Meyer had been married to a senior CIA officer. They also knew that she had been having an affair with John F. Kennedy. None of this was reported. In fact, the judge, ruled that the private life of Mary Meyer could not be mentioned in court.

The trial judge was Howard Corcoran. He was the brother of Tommy Corcoran, a close friend of Lyndon B. Johnson. Corcoran had been appointed by Johnson soon after he became president. It is generally acknowledged that Corcoran was under Johnson’s control. His decision to insist that Mary’s private life should not be mentioned in court was very important in disguising the possible motive for the murder. This information was also kept from Crump’s lawyer, Dovey Roundtree. Although she attempted to investigate Mary's background she found little information about her: "It was as if she existed only on the towpath on the day she was murdered."

During the trial Wiggins was unable to positively identify Raymond Crump as the man standing over Meyer's body. The prosecution was also handicapped by the fact that the police had been unable to find the murder weapon at the scene of the crime or to provide a credible motive for the crime. On 29th July, 1965, Crump was acquitted of murdering Mary Meyer. The case remains unsolved.

As well as a lawyer, Roundtree was also an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Dovey Johnson Roundtree retired in 1996.

In July 2000, the American Bar Association presented Roundtree with the coveted Margaret Brent Award which she donated to Howard University School of Law.

The question has been asked who really was "William L. Mitchell," the alleged assassin of Mary Pinchot Meyer? What we know about Mitchell is that the day after the murder, he went to police in Washington and told them that he believed he passed Mary Meyer on the towpath as he was running east back to Key Bridge and she was walking west toward Fletcher's Boat House. Mitchell told police that a black man (who just happened to fit Ray Crump's description - the man who was charged with the murder) was following her about six hundred feet behind her. Mitchell told police that he ran the towpath regularly, worked at the Pentagon, and was a part time teacher at Georgetown University. Mitchell testified at Crump's murder trial in July, 1965, but his testimony was largely discredtied by Crump's attorney, Dovey Roundtree, Esq. who became a legend after getting Crump acquitted.

Mitchell was listed in the DoD directory in the fall of 1964 as "2nd Lt. William L. Mitchell." But then he disappears from the directory in the winter (1965). He shows up at the trial (July, 1965) and tells reporter Roberta Hornig that he is now a full time teacher in the mathmatics department at Georgetown University (GTU). The only problem with this is that there is no record of any "William L. Mitchell" ever teaching at Georgetown. Leo Damore thoroughly researched this in 1991-2. I again researched it a couple of years ago: there is no record of any "William L. Mitchell" teaching in ANY department at GTU.

Mitchell's place of residence was an apartment at "The Virginian" at 1500 Arlington Blvd. in Arlington, Va. Damore researched this address and found evidence that this was a known CIA safehouse. I followed this up two years ago and two former CIA personnel confirmed that it was indeed an agency safehouse, as were certain teaching appointments at GTU.

In my possession are several hours of tape recorded interviews between Damore and Crump's attorney Dovey Roundtree, Esq. (Award winning author Katie McCabe is now finishing the authorized biography of Dovey Rountree). Both Roundtree and Damore talk about Mitchell and how "convenient" his testimony was, and they both suspected his involvement. Mitchell never returned any of Roundtree's calls before the trial, and Damore could never locate him. So, as a last resort, Damore wrote Mitchell a letter and sent it to his last known address, the address given in the court transcript.

During the very late evening of 3/30/93, "Mitchell" contacted Damore by telephone. The call allegedley lasted more than two hours into the early morning of 3/31/93. At approximately 8:30am on the morning of 3/31/93, Damore called his attorney and good friend Jimmy Smith. Damore started to tell Jimmy about the call and Jimmy started taking notes - 5 pages of them. I have these notes and I have a recorded interview with Attorney Smith going over every detail of his notes.

"Mitchell" told Damore that he had been very impressed with his book Senatorial Priveledge (SP) and what he had uncovered. He wanted to tell Damore what happened but did not want to be the fall guy. "Mitchell" told Damore that he had several aliases, had been a former FBI agent, and then was recruited into the CIA. He had been assigned to surveillance of Mary Meyer right after the Warren Commission had been released. The order then came down to terminate her. There are a number of other details that I do not want share at this point because they are central to my book.

Damore told his attorney that he had taped the call, but I could never find the tapes. I have substaniated however from talking to two of Damore's closest friends that he became quite anxious subsequent to this call in the weeks following because he believed he was being watched.

I have not given up finding the real identity of "William L. Mitchell." But my main military researcher, Roger Charles who won the prestigious Peabody Award for his research with SY Hersch on Abu Ghraib for 60 Minutes II, says the area that Mitchell worked in at the Pentagon was surrounded by other CIA spooks. Charles feels that there is a good case to be make that "Mitchell" was CIA.

Ironically, the last job my father had at the CIA was "Director of Personnel" when he died in 1979.....

Now, let's look at another question: Why was Mary Meyer assassinated (not murdered) ? Mary was killed two weeks after the Warren Commission was released. She bought a paper back condensced version of the WC the day it was released and started reading it. She was furious. She knew it was a complete whitewash, and wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. She told friends that she was thinking seriously of coming out and revealing the truth of what she knew. Allegedley, she confronted Angleton and her former husband Cord about the absurdity of the WC. I think she knew at this point that certain people within the Agency had engineered the assassination. For the future of the CIA, she was definitely a big problem. And she was courageous enough to speak out.

Robert Morrow in his book First Hand Knowledge (Morrow, Robert. First Hand Knowledge. New York: S.P.I. Books, 1992. pp. 274-280) recounts his encounter with another CIA assett who tells him that Mary Meyer has told another CIA wife too many things and that she is trouble. Substaniating this event, I have an account from another CIA official who worked under Richard Helms in the Plans Directorate that they had asked another "helpful" CIA wife to talk to Mary and "settle her down...." in an effort to keep her quiet.

In David Talbott's new book Brothers, the author mentions Bill Walton and how Bobby Kennedy urged him to keep his trip to Russia right after the JFK assassination and take a message to Georgy Bolsholakov. Bobby knew Oswald was just the patsy, and eventually came to believe that the Agency was deeply involved in his brother's demise. Bill Walton was also an artist and a very good friend of Mary Meyer's. He would often escort her to White House social events, knowing full well the affair she was having with JFK. Without going into further details, let's just say that Walton talked to Mary after the assassination and tried to help with her grief.

Mary knew too much. As someone once said, "she knew where all the bodies were buried....." They had to get rid of her because she was too independent and could not be controlled. Think of the trouble she would have caused.

Dovey Johnson Roundtree: A Legal Pioneer, Finally Getting Her Due

National Magazine Award winner Katie McCabe is the co-author, with Dovey Johnson Roundtree, of Roundtree’s 2009 memoir, Justice Older than the Law, scheduled for 2019 re-release by Algonquin Books under the title Mighty Justice.

When civil rights lawyer, minister and Army veteran Dovey Johnson Roundtree died in May at the age of 104, the New York Times gave her front-page coverage, and her in-depth obituary was the sixth most-read article in the paper’s online edition that day. In its own tribute to Dovey, the Washington Post reported that a common refrain among readers of the Times obituary was astonishment that they had never heard of this woman.

By rights, all of America should have known what the Washington legal establishment discovered about Dovey 60 years ago: that she was a force to be reckoned with, a legal buzz saw encased in a charming Southern exterior. Legal lore among D.C. Bar members of a certain age is filled with stories of Dovey’s victories in unwinnable cases for clients no one else cared about.

Perhaps no case Dovey ever tried riveted the city’s attention more than her 1965 defense of a tiny black man named Ray Crump, accused of the execution-style murder of John F. Kennedy mistress Mary Pinchot Meyer on the banks of the C&O Canal in Washington. Found wandering near the crime scene a few minutes after the murder, Crump had been arrested on the word of a witness who claimed to have seen Crump standing over the victim’s body. Without a preliminary hearing and lacking a murder weapon or any physical evidence linking him to the victim, the U.S. Attorney’s office pushed the case to trial with a haste Dovey found disturbing. At the time, only a select inner circle knew of the CIA’s concern about Meyer, an outspoken ex-CIA wife with Oval Office access. It would be years before anyone, including Dovey, learned of the call placed by a CIA honcho to Meyer’s brother-in-law Ben Bradlee, notifying him of her murder hours before police had identified the body, or the CIA counterintelligence chief’s frantic search on the night after her death for the diary in which she had revealed her presidential affair.

Dovey, unaware of the specifics but sensing larger forces at work, was certain of one thing only: her client’s innocence. He was, she wrote years later, “incapable” of committing a murder executed with the stealth, precision and forethought of Meyer’s. For a fee of $1, she took on the case against the advice of her law partners and in the face of scorn by the prosecution team, which saw the matter as an open-and-shut circumstantial case. When Crump’s terrified alibi witness disappeared, Dovey was left with nothing but a police document the prosecution had overlooked, a “lookout” description of a man far taller and heavier than Crump. The reporters, lawyers, and law students who packed the U.S. District Court in the last week of July 1965, remember still the way Dovey took on the government, deploying her cross-examination skills to skewer the state’s witnesses and holding the lookout document as a secret weapon until several days into the trial. She earned legendary status as the woman lawyer who tried the most sensational murder case of the decade dressed in a pink-and-white suit, who stood alone against the U.S. Attorney’s office, made a mockery of the case erected against her client and quoted Shakespeare on the sacredness of a man’s good name. In so doing, she won acquittal for Crump, and an honored place for herself among Washington’s white elite, simply by outperforming them. In turn, she paved the way for generations of African-American lawyers who followed in her footsteps.

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But Dovey’s influence extended far beyond her victory in the Crump case. So far as I could tell when I discovered her almost 24 years ago and began collaborating with her on her autobiography, there was almost no area of public life she hadn’t transformed. Her entire career was a series of “firsts.” She was a member of the first class of women to train as officers in the World War II military the first black member of the Women’s Bar of the District of Columbia the first lawyer to bring a bus desegregation case before the Interstate Commerce Commission one of the first women to be ordained a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. And she shattered these barriers at a time when women, and particularly women of color, were relegated to the shadows of the professional world—or worse. In 1962, the same year Dovey integrated the D.C. Women’s Bar amid a firestorm of protest, Malcolm X declared: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” In that world, Dovey challenged the white patriarchy. And against all odds of time and place, she prevailed.

She defied Jim Crow in the World War II military as a member of the first class of black Women’s Army Corps officers, risking court martial rather than endure the degradation of a segregated base. She traveled alone through the Deep South, recruiting African-American women for a racially divided Army with the same call to service she had received from her mentor, educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune: “You are not doing this for yourself. You’re doing it for those coming after you.” In turn, Dovey laid the groundwork for an interracial military six years before President Harry Truman mandated an end to Army segregation.

To follow Dovey’s journey from poverty in Jim Crow North Carolina is to watch the entire history of the American civil rights movement roll past. She was a protégé not only of Bethune, but also of labor leader A. Philip Randolph, of pioneering lawyer and minister Pauli Murray, and, during her years at Howard Law School, of legendary civil rights lawyers James Madison Nabrit, Jr. and Thurgood Marshall.

And she made her own history. In November 1955, just two weeks before Rosa Parks took her historic stand in Montgomery, Alabama, Dovey wrested from the notoriously segregationist Interstate Commerce Commission the watershed Jim Crow bus ruling that enabled Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to enforce bus desegregation during the 1961 Freedom Riders’ campaign. Invoked by the Justice Department at the height of mob violence in the South, Dovey’s victory in Keys v. Carolina Coach Company stands as a landmark, a symbol of the power of legal language over chaos and destruction. What is more, it was a victory won by a woman in a field that was almost entirely male. And white.

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Therein lies the answer to the question put to me by New York Times writer Margalit Fox when she interviewed me in 2016 for her advance obituary of Dovey. Fox had discovered her, she told me, by trolling Wikipedia, of all things, and she was bowled over at what she read. “Why have I never heard of this woman?” she asked me. I will say again here, for the record, what I told Ms. Fox: “History is written by white men, and Dovey Johnson Roundtree was neither.”

Racism, of course, played a major role in the establishment’s failure to publicize the accomplishments of a woman of color. But there was another factor at work: The sexism of the black men who led the legal charge during the early years of the civil rights movement. Overwhelmed with the task of winning rights for African-Americans, many black lawyers ignored women, at best, and pushed them aside, at worst. When Dovey brought the Sarah Keys case before the ICC, at the same time that the NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorneys were bringing a train desegregation case, they refused to speak to Dovey in the ICC’s corridor and declined to share information with her that could have expedited her case. Such were the times.


The Keys case originated in an incident that occurred at a bus station in the North Carolina town of Roanoke Rapids shortly after midnight on August 1, 1952, when African American WAC private Sarah Keys was forced by a local bus driver to yield her seat in the front of the vehicle to a white Marine as she traveled homeward on furlough. [8] At the time of the incident, Jim Crow laws entirely governed Southern bus travel, despite a 1946 Supreme Court ruling meant to put an end to the practice. That decision, Morgan v. Virginia (328 US 373 (1946)), had declared state Jim Crow laws inoperative on interstate buses on the basis that the imposition of widely varying statutes on black passengers moving across state lines generated multiple seat changes and thus created the kind of disorder and inconsistency forbidden by the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. [9] Southern carriers managed to dodge the Morgan decision, however, by passing segregation rules of their own, and those rules remained outside the purview of state and federal courts because they pertained to private businesses. [10] In addition, the federal agency charged with regulating the carriers, the Interstate Commerce Commission, had historically interpreted the Interstate Commerce Act's discrimination ban as permitting separate accommodations for the races so long as they were equal. [11] The ICC's separate but equal policy, upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in a 1950 railway dining car segregation case known as Henderson v. United States (399 US 816 (1950)), thus remained the norm in public transportation. [12]

When Sarah Keys departed her WAC post in Fort Dix, New Jersey on the evening of July 31, 1952 bound for her hometown of Washington, North Carolina, she boarded an integrated bus in New Jersey and transferred without incident in Washington, D.C. to a Carolina Trailways vehicle, taking the fifth seat from the front in the white section. When her bus pulled into the Roanoke Rapids Trailways terminal, however, a new driver took the wheel and demanded that she comply with the carrier's Jim Crow regulation by moving to the so-called "colored section" in the back of the bus so that a white Marine could occupy her seat. Keys refused to move, whereupon the driver emptied the bus, directed the other passengers to another vehicle, and barred Keys from boarding it. An altercation ensued and Keys was arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, jailed incommunicado overnight, then convicted of the disorderly conduct charge and fined $25. [13]

Unwilling to accept the verdict of the North Carolina lower court sustaining the charge, Keys and her father brought the matter to the attention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) office in Washington, D.C., headed by Howard University Law School professor Frank D. Reeves. Reeves referred Keys' case to his former law student Dovey Johnson Roundtree, whose World War II service in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) he believed would make her an ideal advocate for Sarah Keys. [14] Roundtree herself, as a recruiter for the WAC in the Deep South, had been evicted from a Miami, Florida bus in a 1943 incident that almost exactly paralleled Sarah Keys' experience. [15] [16] She and her law partner and mentor Julius Winfield Robertson undertook the case, filing a complaint against both the Northern carrier which had transported Keys to Washington, D.C., and the Southern carrier which had actually perpetrated the alleged wrong, Carolina Trailways. [17] Though Robertson and Roundtree were but a year at the bar in the fall of 1952 when they undertook to represent Sarah Keys, they had been trained at Howard University Law School by such renowned civil rights lawyers as Thurgood Marshall, James Nabrit Jr., and George E.C. Hayes, and they were deeply involved in the movement to dismantle segregation in the courts. [18] Writing years later in her autobiography about the unique bond she had with her client, Dovey Roundtree said, "It was as though I sat looking in a mirror, so strong was my sense of having walked where Sarah Keys had walked."

The match of client Sarah Keys with the young firm of Robertson and Roundtree proved fortuitous, as did the timing of the case, which unfolded during the same two-year period that the Supreme Court of the United States was hearing oral arguments in the landmark school desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education. [19] [20] When the US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the Keys complaint on February 23, 1953 on jurisdictional grounds, Roundtree and Robertson elected to bring their case before the Interstate Commerce Commission, which they believed might be persuaded to re-evaluate its traditional interpretation of the Interstate Commerce Act, in the same way that the Supreme Court was then re-evaluating its interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment. [21] [22] On September 1, 1953, two months before Thurgood Marshall and his legal team made the second round of oral arguments in Brown before the Supreme Court asserting that the Fourteenth Amendment's "equal protection" clause prohibited segregation, Sarah Keys became the first black petitioner to bring a complaint before the Commission on a Jim Crow bus matter. [23]

When the Supreme Court handed down its epochal ruling on May 17, 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education, the ICC initially chose to ignore it. In a September 30, 1954 ruling, ICC hearing examiner Isadore Freidson stated that Brown had no relevance to the conduct of business by a private bus carrier. Citing Plessy v. Ferguson as well as 19th-century ICC decisions handed down prior to Plessy, and others which the Supreme Court had later overturned, Freidson argued that the non-discrimination language of the Interstate Commerce Act did not prohibit segregation. [24] [25] Roundtree, through a Spelman classmate who lived in Sarah Keys' Congressional district, contacted Congressman Adam Clayton Powell to protest Freidson's ruling and demand a re-hearing by the full 11-man Commission. Following Powell's intervention, the re-hearing was granted, and Roundtree and Robertson were given 30 days to file exceptions. In those exceptions, the lawyers invoked both the commerce clause of the US Constitution and the Supreme Court's reasoning in Brown and applied it explicitly to the area of transportation. [26] [27]

On November 7, 1955, in a historic ruling, the Commission condemned 'separate but equal' in the field where it had begun—public transportation. In the Keys case, and in the NAACP's companion train case attacking segregation on railroads and in terminal waiting rooms, NAACP v. St. Louis-Santa Fe Railway Company, the ICC ruled that the Interstate Commerce Act prohibited segregation itself. [28] The Keys decision, made public just one week before Rosa Parks' defiance of the bus segregation laws of the city of Montgomery, [29] banned segregation itself as an assault upon the personhood of black travelers, and held in part:

"We conclude that the assignment of seats on interstate buses, so designated as to imply the inherent inferiority of a traveler solely because of race or color, must be regarded as subjecting the traveler to unjust discrimination, and undue and unreasonable prejudice and disadvantage. We find that the practice of defendant requiring that Negro interstate passengers occupy space or seats in specified portions of its buses, subjects such passengers to unjust discrimination, and undue and unreasonable prejudice and disadvantage, in violation of Section 216 (d) of the Interstate Commerce Act and is therefore unlawful." [30]

Hailed by the press as a "symbol of a movement that cannot be held back," [31] the Keys case marked a turning point in the legal battle against segregation, and a major departure from the ICC's history in racial matters. In the short term, however, it lay dormant, its intent thwarted by the one ICC commissioner who had dissented from the majority opinion, South Carolina Democrat J. Monroe Johnson. [32] In his position as Chairman of the Commission, Johnson consistently failed to enforce the Keys ruling, and it was not until the summer of 1961, when the violence resulting from the Freedom Riders' campaign prompted Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to take action, that the impact of the Keys case was felt.

Impelled by the protests of civil rights leaders and the weight of international outrage at the brutality perpetrated on the Freedom Riders [33] Kennedy took the unusual legal step of issuing a petition to the Interstate Commerce Commission on May 29, 1961, in which he called upon them to implement their own rulings. Citing the Keys and NAACP train case, along with the Supreme Court's 1960 Boynton v. Virginia ruling (364 US 454 (1960)) prohibiting segregation in terminal waiting rooms, restaurants and restrooms, the Attorney General called upon the ICC to issue specific regulations banning Jim Crow in interstate travel, and to take immediate steps to enforce those regulations. [34] [35]

A major breakthrough in the legal battle for civil rights, Keys v. Carolina Coach Company has generally been eclipsed in historical accounts of the movement by the events which followed it, notably the defiance of Montgomery, Alabama's city bus laws by Rosa Parks and the resultant Montgomery bus boycott. Parks' action assumed an importance far beyond the level of a municipal incident, giving rise to a Supreme Court decision banning segregation in travel within the individual states (Browder v. Gayle, 352 US 903 (1956)) and igniting the civil rights campaign which thrust the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. onto the national stage and paved the way for further reforms. [36] The protest movement King led created an environment in which Keys and other desegregation rulings could be implemented. Keys thus represents one critical piece in the complex and multi-faceted fight for civil rights, in which the legal and the activist streams sustained each other and in combination precipitated the dismantling of Jim Crow.

From page one, I wanted to know this woman named Dovey Johnson Roundtree-- a key (but lesser known) figure in the civil rights movement. Her personal protests against racism changed the way Black female members of the Women&aposs Army Corp were treated during World War II. As a lawyer, some of the court cases she won set a precedent for decisions on other cases. She was amazing. Katie McCabe is the author of adult version & Jabari Asim is the author of adaptation for young adults. Along with typi From page one, I wanted to know this woman named Dovey Johnson Roundtree-- a key (but lesser known) figure in the civil rights movement. Her personal protests against racism changed the way Black female members of the Women's Army Corp were treated during World War II. As a lawyer, some of the court cases she won set a precedent for decisions on other cases. She was amazing. Katie McCabe is the author of adult version & Jabari Asim is the author of adaptation for young adults. Along with typical bio details there are many moments of tension that make you want to turn the page and see what happens next, moments when you think, "Oh goodness. That's awful. What's she going to do now?" and then Roundtree figures out how to overcome yet another obstacle.

Think this would be a good fit for 7th-12th grade students who have particular interests in civil rights or in law. I'd recommend teachers "book talk" this book by sharing or reading aloud excerpts and then leaving students hanging so they'll want to read more. "What happened when the bus driver was so rude to Dovey and her grandmother? You'll have to read to find out!" "What happened to this court case? Were they able to help their client get justice? You'll have to read to find out!" For students who are contemplating going to law school (maybe 8th grade and above), teachers might recommend this book during a reading conference and maybe discuss some of the cases as a way to spark their interest.

LOVED McCabe's note at the end. McCabe describes the tight relationship she developed with Dovey Johnson Roundtree over several years and how they addressed the issue of McCabe being a white author writing about a Black person. After reading the book and getting to know Dovey Roundtree, I was not surprised that she embraced (and educated) McCabe. . more

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Born in 1914, Roundtree had a varied and important career made all the more impressive by the difficulties she faced at every turn. Thanks to her grandmother, who had suffered greatly from racism and believed that education was the key to success, she managed to not only go to college at Spelman, but also law school at Howard University, and even studied theology while she was practicing law! Because she had to work to pay her way through most of her schooling, it E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Born in 1914, Roundtree had a varied and important career made all the more impressive by the difficulties she faced at every turn. Thanks to her grandmother, who had suffered greatly from racism and believed that education was the key to success, she managed to not only go to college at Spelman, but also law school at Howard University, and even studied theology while she was practicing law! Because she had to work to pay her way through most of her schooling, it is amazing that she was able to keep up with the demands of her classes while also being actively involved with the Civil Rights movement. She was handpicked to serve as a reruiter for the WAAC by Mary McLeod Bethune She was very fortunate to have some amazing mentors, from Bethune, to a college professor who supported her and made sure she had funds for school, to several helpful people in the legal profession. During the 1950s and 60s, she was involved in a number of legal battles, many of them concerning transportation. I had no idea that there were so many fights about this, many of them well before Rosa Parks. During the 1970s and 80s, she shifted her focus to the rights of children. She practiced law into her 80s, and passed away in 2018 at the age of 104.
Strengths: Wow. I've been waiting a long time to see more biographies of women and Black Americans that aren't new editions of people about whom there are already books. (How many George Washington Carver and Harriet Tubman books does one library need?) Roundtree is hugely impressive, yet I had never heard of her. Biographies set in the 1900s often amaze my readers, who find it difficult to comprehend how widespread strictures for Black Americans were not that many years ago. There are a decent number of photographs spread throughout the book.
Weaknesses: This was a bit of the dry side. This could be because it is a Young Readers Edition, or it could have been that a lot of the book covered legal cases. I was hoping it would be a bit more like Katharine Johnson's Reaching for the Moon and provide more details about every day life.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, since this has just the right amount of information for research projects and is not only a great biography, but can also be used for finding out more about important Civil Rights cases. . more

Dovey Johnson Roundtree was a respected lawyer and leader in the Civil Rights movement. “At each step in her journey, Dovey had been lifted up by strong, brilliant, and fearless women.“ Beyond the brave and beautiful life Dovey lived, this story is about people championing others to become more than they could become on their own. Dovey had many champions in her life.

The love of Dovey’s mother and grandmother was foundational. Her English professor at Spelman College, Mary Mae Neptune, loaned he Dovey Johnson Roundtree was a respected lawyer and leader in the Civil Rights movement. “At each step in her journey, Dovey had been lifted up by strong, brilliant, and fearless women.“ Beyond the brave and beautiful life Dovey lived, this story is about people championing others to become more than they could become on their own. Dovey had many champions in her life.

The love of Dovey’s mother and grandmother was foundational. Her English professor at Spelman College, Mary Mae Neptune, loaned her money to finish college. This made a huge difference in her life. Mary also encouraged Dovey to pay her kindness forward, which Dovey purposed to do throughout her life. She looked up to and gleaned wisdom from role models, such as W. E. B. Du Bois, a sociologist, Civil Rights activist and professor whom she heard speak many times at Atlanta University and Mary McLeod Bethune, President of the National Council of Negro women and a member of President Roosevelt’s black cabinet. Her pastors also played an important role in her life.

Over the course of her life, Dovey argued and won many important court cases as related to Civil Rights issues. She also defended and won a case where a black man was accused of murder. Dovey believed and proved him innocent. She fought for truth and justice.

This book would be a perfect biographical read for middle school and high school students. I found this book, and Dovey herself, to be engaging and interesting. One who overcomes the obstacles of life and self to find success and make a positive difference for others is inspiring. Be inspired! . more

Mighty Justice: A Family Event About Civil Rights Lawyer Dovey Johnson Roundtree

For those people not familiar with Dovey Johnson Roundtree’s name, you are invited to learn about a great woman who dedicated her life to service, justice, and lifting up the most oppressed among us. Raised in the Jim Crow South, Dovey Johnson Roundtree's early life was shaped by the strength of her grandmother. Dovey faced every challenge possible. Through sheer will and determination, she became a Civil Rights lawyer who was pivotal in dismantling racially segregated interstate bus travel in the early 1950s. She took clients that other lawyers ignored, saying of those she helped, “I make my clients my children. I can see stars when there is nothing but clay.” Never letting herself be beaten down by racism, Dovey Johnson Roundtree was a proud American who believed in the power of public service.

Two new books about Roundtree illuminate the events that shaped her life. We Wait for the Sun is a picture book about her powerful and loving connection with her grandmother. Evocative nighttime illustrations by Raissa Figueroa pull readers into the tale. The second book, Mighty Justice, is the Young Readers edition of her adult memoir, co-written by Roundtree and Katie McCabe and adapted by Jabari Asim. The book explores her childhood, service in WW II, groundbreaking work as a minister, and legacy as a courtroom criminal defense lawyer.

We are excited to announce that the first 50 attendees/families to join the event and select the "ticket and complimentary copies" option at registration will receive a complimentary copy of both We Wait for the Sun and Mighty Justice for their home library (one set per family). Recipients of the complimentary copy will pick their books up at one of our Politics and Prose locations. These books are generously donated by the District of Columbia Public Library Foundation.


Katie McCabe

Katie McCabe is the co-author, with Dovey Roundtree, of Mighty Justice, a January 2020 Oprah selection and an Association of Black Women Historians’ Letitia Woods Brown Award recipient. McCabe’s National Magazine Award-winning Washingtonian article on black surgery pioneer Vivien Thomas formed the basis for the Emmy winning HBO film Something the Lord Made.

Raissa Figueroa

Raissa Figueroa is an artist and children’s book illustrator. Her artwork can be found in books such as Oona and Sophie and Little Star. She currently lives in San Diego, California and loves walking the beaches in search of tiny treasures.

Charlene Pritchett-Stevenson
Charlene Pritchett-Stevenson is Dovey Johnson Roundtree's goddaughter. Charlene, a native North Carolinian, is a printing service specialist at the US Government Publishing Office and was a longtime member of Allen Chapel AME Church, where Dovey Roundtree ministered.

Mighty Justice

In  Mighty Justice , trailblazing African American civil rights attorney Dovey Johnson Roundtree recounts her inspiring life story that speaks movingly and urgently to our racially troubled times. From the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, to the segregated courtrooms of the nation&rsquos capital from the male stronghold of the army where she broke gender and color barriers to the pulpits of churches where women had waited for years for the right to minister&mdashin all these places, Roundtree sought justice. At a time when African American attorneys had to leave the courthouses to use the bathroom, Roundtree took on Washington&rsquos white legal establishment and prevailed, winning a 1955 landmark bus desegregation case that would help to dismantle the practice of &ldquoseparate but equal&rdquo and shatter Jim Crow laws. Later, she led the vanguard of women ordained to the ministry in the AME Church in 1961, merging her law practice with her ministry to fight for families and children being destroyed by urban violence.

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Look Inside

Meet the Authors

Dovey Johnson Roundtree

Katie McCabe

Tayari Jones

Review quotes

&ldquoDovey Johnson Roundtree set a new path for women and proved that the vision and perseverance of a single individual can turn the tides of history.&rdquo
&mdash Michelle Obama

&ldquoPart moving memoir, part inspiration to resist, Mighty Justice is a must-read.&rdquo
&mdash Ms. Magazine

&ldquoThe picaresque arc of her life pulses through this exquisite and essential memoir as she battles her way out of the segregated South and into some of the highest courts in the land, carving &lsquoa way out of no way.&rsquo&rdquo
&mdash O: The Oprah Magazine

&ldquoTrailblazing attorney Dovey Johnson Roundtree died last year at 104, but her legacy shines bright in her memoir. Penned with Katie McCabe and featuring a foreword from An American Marriage author Tayari Jones, it not only covers Johnson&rsquos triumphant journey, but it also enriches our collective memory.&rdquo
&mdash Essence

&ldquoSome life stories are too important to be relegated to dusty history books. They must be remembered, honored, shared. Dovey Johnson Roundtree lived that large and remarkable a life.&rdquo
&mdash The Associated Press

&ldquoIn this apparent golden age of memoir, some stories shine brighter than others. Mighty Justice: My Life in Civil Rights is one lucent example of the brighter variety . . . This memoir by pathbreaking black attorney Dovey Johnson Roundtree deserves a spot alongside works by and about Pauli Murray and Barbara Jordan.&rdquo
&mdash Shelf Awareness

 &ldquoReaders will find [Roundtree&rsquos] dogged certainty in the inevitable triumph of justice in times of social upheaval both timely and inspiring. This superb work should ensure that Roundtree receives the recognition she richly deserves.&rdquo
&mdash Library Journal (starred review)
&ldquoThoughtful and highly inspiring, this book, co-authored by McCabe, is not only a moving memoir it is also an important contribution to the history of civil rights in America . . . An eloquently told story that should make an impact.&rdquo
&mdash Kirkus Reviews

&ldquo[An] inspirational, history-rich memoir . . . In straightforward . . . prose, she covers her many transformative moments, including being in the courtroom as a spectator when  Plessy  v.  Ferguson  was overturned in 1954, and winning a critical travel-discrimination case in 1955 that helped end the segregation of bus passengers in America . . . This eye-opening, accessible book documents the life of a trailblazing human rights advocate.&rdquo
&mdashPublishers Weekly

&ldquoPowerful . . . Mighty Justice is an inspiring and intense memoir by an extraordinary woman and mentor who deserves a high profile in American history.&rdquo
&mdash Foreword Reviews

"Roundtree never gave up on America. Her story is at the same time infuriating, heartbreaking, moving, joyous, and powerful. Read it and you will feel inspired." 
&mdash Liza Mundy, New York Times bestselling author of Code Girls
"Dovey Roundtree is my hero. This is not only a great read, but a must read. I recommend it to anyone thinking about justice or trying to find ways to overcome challenges they face."
&mdashCharles J. Ogletree, author of  Without Parole: America New Death Penalty

"Dovey Roundtree's nobility, the courage and effectiveness of her work, are enough to restore one's hope for the human race. The book, though it describes an era that is past, is above all a study of something that doesn't change much&mdashhuman character and its possibilities."
&mdashLance Morrow, Time  magazine essayist and author of Evil

"You will learn so very much about determination, values, courage, manners, and the moral strength of this family. The experience will enhance your appreciation for the struggles and achievements against the odds, and the meanness of stereotypes. And you will see and learn American history and human history at its best."
&mdashDr. Walter J. Leonard, former president of Fisk University and founding committee chair of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University

"To read how Dovey Roundtree struggled to help others and to make a difference in our world is exalting. This book tells what one determined, unstoppable woman did with her life to change laws and traditions to make America a better, fairer, and more respectful country.&rdquo
&mdash Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, USAF (Ret.), President, Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation

Dovey Roundtree - History


By Zalin Grant

This was Monday October 12, 1964. Mary Pinchot Meyer, who’d had a private relationship with President John F. Kennedy for nearly two years until his murder eleven months earlier, was walking on the 4300 block of the old Chesapeake & Ohio canal towpath in Washington, D.C. The towpath area, which bordered the Potomac River, was used as an unofficial recreation park for fishing and jogging. It was a short distance from the Georgetown section of D.C. where Mary lived at 1523 34th Street NW. She was two days shy of turning 44 years old.

On this clear and chilly October day, someone accosted Mary Meyer on the towpath at about 12:20 p.m. and shot her twice within 10 seconds with a .38 caliber pistol. The first shot was directed at her head, one and a half inches to the front of her left ear. The gun was held no more than six inches away because an autopsy revealed that the entrance point of the bullet was encircled by a dark halo of powder burns.

The first bullet traveled from left to right and struck the right side of the skull, then ricocheted back to where it was found in the brain. The second bullet entered over her right shoulder blade and traveled down through the chest cavity, piercing the right lung and the aorta, the heart’s biggest blood vessel. The second shot also came from no more than six inches away, for it too was encircled by a dark halo of powder burns.

According to Willie J. Wade, a D.C. homicide detective I interviewed, the first shot would have produced blowback and caused blood and brain matter to spew on the shooter. Although Wade did not investigate the Meyer murder, he had plenty of experience with similar killings. He told me she would have gone down immediately and died. The second shot was just to make sure. Such a precision-clocked murder sounded to him, he said, like it was carried out by a professional

Police examine the body of Mary Meyer - Oct 12, 1964..

The Presumed Killer

Raymond Crump, Jr, age 25, an African American, was taken by police when he was found in the canal towpath area a few minutes after Mary Meyer was killed. A witness said he saw a black man near the body of Ms. Meyer shortly after he heard the two shots. He identified the man he saw as being five-eight and 185 pounds. Crump was five foot five and a half inches tall and weighed 145 pounds.

The D.C. police took Ray Crump into custody and he was charged with the first degree murder of Mary Meyer. As the trial revealed, there was no physical evidence—no blood, no hairs, no fibers—nothing that linked Crump to her murder. No eyewitness claimed to have seen the killing. The gun was never found.

Alfred Hantman, the assistant U.S. Attorney charged with prosecuting the case, told the judge and jury on the first morning of the trial in July 1965:

“This case in all its aspects is a classic textbook case in circumstantial evidence.”

Actually it was a classic textbook case on how to frame a black man for a murder he didn’t commit—something that had already taken place more than a few times in American history.

And the frame-up would have succeeded had it not been for the presence of an African American lawyer by the name of Dovey Roundtree.

Dovey Roundtree, then 51, was one tough lady. This was not obvious when you talked to her. She was polite, soft-spoken, with a mischievous sense of humor, easy to laugh at herself.

Born April 17, 1914 in Charlotte, NC, she had climbed to success with extraordinary grace and determination. After graduating from Spelman College in Atlanta, she served as a captain in the U.S. Army Women Auxiliary Corps (WACs) during World War Two.

At war’s end she got married, moved to Washington, and attended law school at Howard University. Then she went to work with a partner, Julius W. Robertson.

“There were several black women lawyers around the country and several in Washington,” she said. “But none was doing trial work and that’s what I wanted to do.”

In one of her proudest moments, she helped end segregation on Interstate bus travel, winning a case in 1955 involving a black WAC who was forced to give up her seat to a white Marine.

After Mary Meyer’s murder a minister phoned and asked her to meet with Ray Crump’s mother and a delegation from their neighborhood.

“By this time I’d represented many people charged with murder and I was happy to protect their legal rights,” she said. “But there was never any doubt in my mind when a man or woman was actually guilty, and I didn’t let it plague me. I was doing my job as a lawyer.

“At this point, though, I was neutral about whether Crump was guilty or not because I hadn’t seen him.”

When she went to D.C. jail next day, she immediately had misgivings. She found him exceedingly unimpressive. As small as Sammy Davis Jr. and not very intelligent, he was a poor student in school and mumbled when he talked.

Yet he was pleasant enough as a person and not aggressive. He had a construction job and she imagined that he took part of his check home and used the rest to get drunk. She knew the type.

Although she didn’t describe him to me in these terms, I got the impression that Dovey Roundtree thought Ray Crump was not a criminal but simply a low-grade screw-up who was in the wrong place that day.

But his mother was sobbing and asking for her help, and the neighborhood delegation said Ray was a good boy who was married and had five children, and they believed he was being railroaded by the white establishment.

The police were saying that Crump had tried to pull Mary Meyer, who was five-six and 127 pounds, off the canal towpath to rape her. When she struggled with him, he shot her in the head and she grabbed a tree to resist. He pulled her from the tree and dragged her 22 feet away and shot her again when she continued trying to escape.

Dovey had her doubts after seeing him. He didn’t appear to have the proclivities for such an act and didn’t even look capable of dragging a woman who was nearly as big as he was anywhere.

Her doubts were reinforced when she discovered that the prosecutors had skipped the usual preliminary hearing and rushed him to the grand jury and on to trial.

“If I hadn’t been interested in taking his case,” she said, “that got me interested. At the preliminary hearing I would have been able to ask questions, to bring out matters that might have caused the judge stop and consider the circumstances under which he was arrested.”

She was tough in questioning Crump about what he had been doing on the towpath. He told police he had been fishing and had fallen in the water. But he didn’t want to tell her what he had really been doing and she had to pull it out of him.

He had missed the truck that would take him to his morning construction job, he told her finally, and he decided to stop by the home of a girlfriend to see if she was interested in doing something.

The girl had a car and they bought a six-pack of beer and a small bottle of gin and drove to the park, where they had sex. That had happened before, same girl, same place. He drank so much that he fell asleep and the girl took her car and went home and left to him to get back by trolley.

Dovey knew this might make a good alibi if she could find the girl. But she also knew it would squeeze the soul of his poor mother if this came out at trial. When Ray told her he didn’t want to involve the girl she decided not to push it further.

She had dealt with hundreds of black criminals who would walk up to you and put a bullet in your head without blinking, but her gut instinct said he was not one of them. He was telling the truth, within the parameters, of course, of a certain amount of lying.

Of all the women alleged in future years to have been involved with Jack Kennedy, Mary Meyer came the closest to matching the social and intellectual credentials of Jacqueline Kennedy—or perhaps exceeding them.

She was beautiful and witty and full of life—an artist with short blonde hair and wonderful lively eyes—who was noted for her abstract paintings.

A niece of Gifford Pinchot, a Pennsylvania governor and the nation’s first conservationist under Teddy Roosevelt, Mary Pinchot attended Vassar, then worked as a journalist, and married Cord Meyer, Jr. A Yale graduate and World War Two Marine, Meyer was an aspiring writer who would become a CIA officer specializing in media propaganda and disinformation.

The Kennedys and Meyers lived near each other in Georgetown when Jack served in the Senate, and they became friends. Jackie often took walks with Mary along the canal towpath.

Mary and Cord were divorced in 1958. But both continued as friends of the Kennedys.

According to an account by Mary’s confidant James Truitt, a Washington Post vice president, Jack asked Mary to stay with him after she attended a White House social function in December 1961. She declined.

As was later learned, JFK was under pressure at this time from the FBI to end his affair with Judith Campbell Exner, a friend of Frank Sinatra who acted as a go-between for the Mafia.

The following month, in January 1962, when apparently JFK broke off with Exner, he phoned Mary and tried again to get her to join him, saying “I’ll send a car for you.”

This time she gave in. She was 42 years old, a beautiful woman who was known to like sex and adventure. A free spirit, many called her. And unlike Judith Exner, she didn’t have any national security issues that might upset J. Edgar Hoover.

Their relationship rose above the quickie philandering that was reportedly of prime interest to JFK. When Jackie was not in Washington, they usually had drinks and dinner alone, but sometimes with one or more of his aides, who would excuse themselves after dinner. They met regularly, often two or three times a week. She began to serve as his hostess at small parties when Jackie was away.

On one occasion she brought six marijuana joints and JFK smoked one of them awkwardly, commenting that it wasn’t the same as cocaine and he would try to get her some coke. But it was unlikely they did drugs again, although there was later press speculation that she had introduced him to LSD, since she knew Timothy Leary and he had given her the drug.

Mary told her confidant, however, that she was under no illusions. She didn’t think he would ever leave Jackie, and she accepted the relationship for what it was.

Did Jackie know? She never indicated she did. But then again that wasn’t Jackie’s style.

30 Years After JFK’s Death

The Mary Meyer case had always fascinated me and in 1993 I decided to take a close look. It seemed enough time had passed that I could conduct a quiet investigation without calling attention to myself or raising the ire of people still concerned with protecting JFK’s image and legacy. I chose November 1993, the 30th anniversary of his death, to start my work.

I got a copy of the trial transcript and studied it closely. I talked to various people involved in the case, and walked the towpath where she was killed. I followed the police investigation and collected documents.

Then on November 3, 1993 I had a long interview with Dovey Roundtree at her Washington office, although I decided not to write my article at that time.

Dovey Roundtree was truly a remarkable human being and I was pleased to see that years later, when she was in her 90’s, she finally began to receive the recognition and praise that she deserved, with a book about her and a television series roughly based on her life, and honored by Michelle Obama. Her Wikipedia entry laid out her career but couldn’t quite touch all the adversities she’d had to overcome to get there.

Dovey thought that there was something in the Meyer case she could never get at. “I felt I was against a big force of the government.” She believed it led to the CIA.

I had no idea about that. But it was clear from my research that the Washington establishment had joined together to oppose the possibility that there might have been another motive for Mary Meyer’s murder besides attempted rape.

Many of these people from government and the media knew each other well. They went to the same Ivy League schools, lived the same lifestyles, and often had dinner parties to exchange gossip. Many of them were enthralled by the idea of Camelot.

Their attitude toward the Meyer murder I found surprising—if not, in some cases, downright suspicious.

Only a day or two after Crump was arrested, the Washington Post had editorialized about the case in a strange and most unprofessional way. As the Post saw it, there was no question about it: Ray Crump was the killer.

Dovey called the Post and asked if they had information about Crump’s guilt that wasn’t available to her. The Post said no, they had nothing that wasn’t generally known to the police.

She heard that Ben Bradlee, the Washington Newsweek Bureau chief, was also trumpeting his belief that Crump was the killer and that it was an open and shut case.

Years later, in a book interview with Brian Lamb, Bradlee said that he never knew JFK and Mary were having an affair until after her murder.

Mary Meyer’s sister, Antoinette (Tony) Pinchot, had married Ben Bradlee, and they lived not far away. Mary used a converted garage edging their property as her studio. Bradlee, along with a Georgetown pharmacist, had gone to the morgue to identify Meyer’s body.

The prosecutor scheduled Bradlee as the first witness, thinking in part, no doubt, that this well-regarded journalist and known friend of JFK would make a good impression on the jury and help build his case.

But Dovey Roundtree wasn’t the least intimidated by the Washington Post or Ben Bradlee, and the way she handled him was the first indication that this wasn’t going to be the open and shut case that the Washington establishment expected.

The following exchange appears in the trial transcript, page 47:

Dovey – Mr. Bradlee, I have just one question.

Bradlee – Yes, ma’am.

Dovey – Do you have any personal, independent knowledge regarding the causes of the death of your sister-in-law? Do you know how she met her death? Do you know who caused it?

Bradlee – Well, I saw a bullet hole in her head.

Dovey – Do you know who caused this to be?

Bradlee - No, I don’t.

Dovey – You have no further information regarding the occurrences leading up to her death?

Bradlee – No, I do not.

Dovey – Thank you, sir. I have no further questions, Your Honor.

There was only one important witness in the case, a black 24-year-old Esso gas station employee named Henry Wiggins. He had been sent from his service station to try to start a stalled auto on Canal Road, across from the towpath, which was concealed from the road by a three-foot high brick fence.

When he got out of his truck, Wiggins said that he heard a woman scream. Then he heard a shot. He ran across the road to stand on the fence so that he could see on the towpath. Within seconds of the first shot he heard another shot.

The Witness Who Saw Too Much

Dovey told me that the black shoes did it for her—and, she thought, for the jury, too. It certainly did it for me when I read the transcript.

There are two things any interviewer, whether media or legal, must be on the alert for: 1) The witness who lies to cover up. 2) The witness who lies to make his information appear to be more than he actually saw.

Wiggins was the second type. He was the source of the first media reports that claimed a witness had seen Mary Meyer struggling with a black man before she was shot. That was later changed to a witness who had seen a black man standing over the body of Mary Meyer after she was shot.

Dovey spent more time with Wiggins than any other witness. She slowly and patiently went to work on him, always politely, taking him through it to dig out every detail he could remember.

It turned out that Wiggins was no closer than 35 to 40 yards from the black man he said he saw. Actually, he said, he only glimpsed him for 30 seconds. But he gave the police a detailed description of what the man was wearing, including that he wore black shoes. It looked like the description was written for him by a policeman after Crump was taken into custody.

It also turned out that the black man was not “standing over Mary Meyer’s body,” as press reports indicated. He was standing behind the body. The head was facing in the other direction where the bullets had entered the body.

It looked as though the black man had just walked up from the rear on the towpath and was staring in surprise at the body. When the black man saw that Wiggins was looking at him, he turned and walked away.

The man was probably Crump who went into a panic when he realized he might be pegged as the killer. But Wiggins’ testimony was filled with so many soft spots that I began to doubt that he even heard the screams of the woman—just the two shots. At the time he said he heard screams he would have been at least 50 yards away and noisy trucks and cars were passing by.

The prosecution was still attempting to build their case that Crump shot Meyer in the head and then she grabbed a tree and held on to it. He pulled her away and dragged her 22 feet and shot her again when she wouldn’t quit trying to escape.

Here is the way it appears in the trial transcript, page 78.

The prosecutor Alfred Hantman is talking to the assistant coroner who pronounced Meyer dead at the scene and who performed the autopsy later that day.

QuestionIn your opinion, Doctor, could an individual who experienced such a gunshot wound to the head move thereafter a distance of, say, 20 to 22 feet?


If you would like to see the effect of a .38 caliber gunshot to the head like Mary Meyer experienced, click

Probably the most famous photo of the Vietnam War, taken by Eddie Adams, it shows Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Loan executing a Viet Cong. The gun he holds is a .38 caliber revolver, the same type that killed Mary. He shoots the VC in the head at almost the same distance and same place as Mary Meyer was shot, though on the opposite side of the head.

The biggest problem the prosecution had was finding the gun. Crump was apprehended within 20 minutes or so after Meyer was killed. The gun was crucial to the case. It didn’t matter whether it belonged to Crump or not, they could always pin it on him, one way or another. The killer didn’t have much time to hide it, so where was it?

The police launched probably the biggest gun hunt in Washington history. They scoured the area. They walked four abreast over every inch of ground where Crump could have walked. They used scuba divers to explore the adjoining canal. When they didn’t find it, they emptied the canal and dug up the muck and mud. They probed the Potomac.

No gun. And no one had ever seen Ray Crump with a gun in his life.

On the day Dovey Roundtree was to present her defense of Crump she wore a pink-and-white striped seersucker dress, with white earrings and white shoes.

She began by calling three witnesses who testified that Ray Crump was known in his neighborhood as a good guy. The only exhibit she used was Ray Crump himself, in all his insignificance, to let the jury take a good look at him.

Alfred Hantman, the prosecutor, was astounded. He asked the judge if they could approach the bench. The judge called them forward.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think Mrs. Roundtree would rest,” Hantman said.

“You try your case your way and I’ll try it my way,” Dovey said.

Dovey told him her fee for the trial was one dollar. She insisted that Crump give it to her himself, and she signed a receipt. Then she arranged for him to hide in another state because she thought his life was in danger. She thought her own safety was also at risk. But it wouldn’t be the first time and she wasn’t running.

She believed the real killer was still out there, and the people behind him would stop at nothing.

“I think the word went out,” Dovey said. “Mary Meyer has got to go. When that happens you are just as good as dead. And Crump was the perfect patsy.”

Camelot Reborn

Two months before Mary was killed, in August 1964, Bobby Kennedy gave a moving tribute at the Democratic Convention in honor of his late brother. It was considered one of the most touching speeches in American history. At the time he was still serving as attorney general under Lyndon Johnson. But the next month he resigned and announced that he was running for the Senate in New York against Republican Kenneth Keating. Keating was popular and everybody thought it would be a close race.

Bobby was being called a carpetbagger, and the slightest misstep could cause him to lose in New York. Although no one could predict what the future held, it was widely assumed that if he won the Senate race it would put him on the path to follow his brother to the White House.

Even if it wasn’t known by the general public, Mary’s relationship with JFK was gossip among the elite of the Washington press corps. It was also known that she had become friendly with Bobby after JFK’s death, and since Mary was known to be very generous in her relationships, no one knew how to define “friendly” in this case.

She was keeping a diary, that was known too, and she had confided what she was doing to Ann and James Truitt. Truitt was an experienced and respected journalist, a former bureau chief for both Time and Newsweek. He later said that he kept notes about what Mary told him and his wife.

Backing Into Obstruction Of Justice

It didn't seem to occur to Tony Bradlee and Ann Truitt who were involved in finding and destroying Mary's diary immediately after her death that they might be committing an act of obstruction of justice. They were operating from emotions that were perfectly understandable--blood kin and close friend.

Mary had told Ann Truitt that if she died she would like the diary destroyed, and Ann called Tony Bradlee and told her where Mary kept the journal. People often left orders for their papers to be destroyed on their death and this was carried out—which was fine and legal, when they died of natural causes.

In this case, however, Mary’s diary constituted potential evidence in an on-going murder investigation. Perhaps she had left information that could be used to track down her killer and to stop him from killing other people.

Of course one person certainly knew, and undoubtedly didn’t care, that they were obstructing justice. That was James Angleton, a man so hated and feared by people both in and out of government that William Colby, a former head of CIA, told me in a tape-recorded interview that his firing of Angleton was one of the best things he had done as CIA director.

Angleton was head of CIA counterintelligence and was married to Mary’s closest friend at Vassar. He was a family friend who often invited her two sons for an outing. But apparently Mary didn’t trust him because she told her friends she thought he was tapping her phone, and she suspected someone had entered her house undetected.

Various stories were told about who was involved in finding and destroying the diary. One of the early ones had Ben and Tony Bradlee and Cord Meyer and James Angleton going to Mary’s home together to try to find it. Ann Truitt supposedly phoned Angleton and Tony Bradlee from Tokyo where her husband was based as a journalist and told them where the diary was hidden.

As time went on, the story changed.

Tony Bradlee (left) and Mary Meyer with their mother and JFK.

Ben Bradlee would probably be remembered as one of America’s finest editors, especially for his work on Watergate. But he came up wobbly in his accounts of what happened to the diary. I had no first-hand knowledge of what he said but relied on quotes provided by others, particularly as found in the Wikipedia entry on Mary Meyer.

According to Bradlee, he and Tony went to Mary’s home the morning after she was killed. The door was locked and they opened it with their key. But when they entered they were surprised to find James Angleton of the CIA, who said he too was looking for the diary. But they were unable to find it at that point.

Again, according to Bradlee, they later came upon Angleton at Mary’s studio near their home trying to pick the padlock on the door. He was still looking for the diary but Tony, acting on info given her by Ann Truitt, found it. They passed it to Angleton, who told them he took it to CIA headquarters and burned it.

But they learned that Angleton had not destroyed it. So Tony got it back from Angleton and burned it in front of Ann Truitt.

One might speculate—although Bradlee didn’t—that Angleton made a copy of the diary and gave the original to Bradlee’s wife for her to destroy, so he wouldn’t later get hit with a rap for obstruction of justice.

According to reports, the diary included the information James Truitt later released and several love letters JFK wrote to Mary.

In early 1963, before the JFK assassination, Philip Graham, the owner and publisher of the Washington Post, mentioned Kennedy’s affair with Mary at a meeting of publishers in Arizona. Graham was already in the throes of the mental illness that led to his suicide in August 1963.

When Graham mentioned the affair, James Truitt quickly intervened and got him off the stage before he said anything more about it. The information obviously had come from Truitt, which probably didn’t sit well with Bradlee and Mary’s sister, Tony.

In any case, Bradlee and Truitt clashed after Mary’s death and their relations became so strained that Bradlee finally forced him out of his job as Post vice president by claiming that he was mentally incompetent. Truitt was given a financial settlement but required to sign an agreement that he would never write “anything derogatory” about the Washington Post.

Truitt moved to Mexico and began trying to get the information from Mary’s diary published. Nobody would touch it. Even the National Enquirer, the scandal tabloid, at first refused to use the material. But when it appeared that Judith Campbell Exner would publish the story about her affair with JFK, the Enquirer went with Truitt’s story. It appeared in early 1976 and was picked up by the mainstream media.

James Truitt committed suicide in November 1981. His wife at the time, not Ann, alleged that his papers and copies of the material from Mary’s diary had been stolen by a CIA officer.

Back Then Journalists Didn’t Tell

I was aware of JFK’s affairs in 1967 long before it became public, though I don’t remember hearing specifically about Mary. I was working as Time magazine’s junior White House correspondent, filling in for Hugh Sidey, usually when he didn’t want to make the drudge trips to LBJ’s Texas ranch.

Hugh Sidey and other top journalists such as Peter Lisagor and Merriman Smith knew about Kennedy’s affairs. Nobody talked about whether JFK was right or wrong. It was just insider stuff, gossip with a chuckle. There were a couple of stories, too, about LBJ’s approach to women which drew laughter.

Back then, nobody in the White House press corps would dream of writing about the infidelities or foibles of a president unless it clearly affected his job. Congressmen were fair game, but not the president.

But Mary Meyer’s death cast a different light on the matter. There was another reason for her death, I believed, that had nothing to do with the black man.

First, there was the way she was killed, execution style. What woman would let someone get six inches from her head without a fight? There were joggers on the path that day and maybe a jogger coming from behind wouldn’t have attracted attention. Or maybe someone she knew pretended to accidentally bump into her on the towpath.

However it happened, I agreed with Dovey Roundtree. It wasn’t Crump.

And what was the reason she was killed? Washington was a political town. It wasn’t difficult to speculate. But I would leave that to others.

At the end of my investigation, I went to the D.C. office where the physical evidence in murder cases was stored. Her murder was a cold case. But some cold cases were solved decades later.

I asked to see Mary’s bloody sweater. Technology was changing. One day the sweater might be tested for DNA under the new methods being developed. Dovey would still be on the case. I knew she wanted to find out who really killed Mary.

The property office told me the sweater, along with everything else concerning the death of Mary Meyer, had mysteriously disappeared.

Roundtree Rule

The Women’s Bar Association announces the creation of the Dovey Roundtree Rule and is seeking law firms to pilot its implementation. Contact [email protected] for more information.

The Roundtree Rule, a third generation of the Mansfield Rule and Rooney Rule, will specifically target the advancement of women of color in law firms. The Rooney Rule, created in 2003, requires every NFL team to interview at least one minority candidate for head coach and front office vacancies. In an effort to diversify the legal profession, law firms adopted the Rooney Rule and also committed to interview more than one diverse candidate for positions within the firm. The Mansfield Rule, a winning idea from the Women in Law Hackathon, requires participating law firms to consider at least 30 percent women, LGBTQ and minority lawyers for significant leadership roles. The Mansfield Rule should be applauded for its efforts. However, as constructed, the Mansfield Rule does little to positively impact the number of senior and leadership roles for women of color.

The Roundtree Rule is designed to address this deficit. The Rule is named after Dovey Johnson Roundtree, the first African-American woman to become a member of the WBA. One of the most contentious yet important moments within the Association’s almost 102-year history occurred in 1962, when the WBA voted to “break the color barrier” and admit Dovey Johnson Roundtree. In the early 1960s, Roundtree was one of the few female litigators in the DC courts and, by all accounts, she was one of the best. Her friend (and future member of the federal bench), former WBA President Joyce Hens Green, nominated Roundtree for admission to the WBA. Judge Green has described the Board of Directors meeting at which Roundtree’s potential membership was discussed as “very clamorous.” She understood that the admission of a woman of color into the WBA would upset a sizable contingent of the Association (and beyond), but she pursued it regardless, knowing it was the right thing to do. After much debate and a close vote, Roundtree became a WBA member. As a result of these trailblazers, the WBA became an advocate for the success for all women lawyers. Thus, in line with this commitment we recommend the implementation of the Roundtree Rule to build upon the success of the Mansfield Rule and to ensure that women of color reap the benefits of its goals.

The goal of the Roundtree Rule is to ensure that women of color reap benefits comparable to those that white women have experienced with the institution of the Mansfield Rule. Our research and observations reveal the need to be more targeted, explicit, and purposeful in addressing the advancement of women of color.

Studies show that when grouping white women within the same group as ethnic minorities, white women will disproportionately benefit the most. Victoria M. Massie, White Women Benefit Most from Affirmative Action — And are Among its Fiercest Opponents, 2016, at (citing a 1995 report by the California Senate Government Organization Committee found that white women held a majority of managerial jobs (57,250) compared with African Americans (10,500), Latinos (19,000), and Asian Americans (24,600) after the first two decades of affirmative action in the private sector). See also, Taryn Finley, 4 Key Points That Debunk Misconceptions Around Affirmative Action, 2017, at (noting that more than 30 years after affirmative action was extended to include women, the percentage of female physicians jumped from 7.6 to 25.2 with white women benefiting more than women of color).

As the numbers reflect, white women have substantially benefited from diversity programs in the legal profession. We applaud and support these strides. The gains by women of color, however, pale in comparison. Our desire is to see significant advancement with respect to women of color as well, and the statistics show otherwise. In 1993, women represented 12.27%[1] of partners at major U.S. law firms. As of January 2019, white women now account for 20.17% of partners at major U.S. law firms. By contrast, in 1993, minorities accounted for 2.55% of partners and in 2006[2] women of color accounted for 1.48% of partners at major U.S. law firms.[3] As of January 2019, women of color now account from 3.19% of partners at major US law firms with 1.38% Asian, 0.77% Hispanic, and 0.68% African‐American.[4] Moreover, in 2018, white women accounted for 23% of general counsels at Fortune 500 companies. By contrast, women of color accounted for 6% of general counsels at Fortune 500 companies, with 1.8% Asian, 1% Hispanic, and 3.2% African-American.[5]

In light of these stark statistics and to laser target this disparity so that the progress of diversity efforts in the legal profession reach all underrepresented groups in a more equitable way, the WBA encourages law firms and legal departments in the Washington metropolitan area (as well as national and global organizations with a significant Washington presence) to commit to a modified Mansfield Rule that would include the following:

For each vacancy in leadership roles and other opportunities, the firm or corporate legal department will include women of color candidates, the greater number of: 1) at least two women of color or 2) 20% of the eligible candidates. These leadership roles and activities include:

  • Equity Partner Promotions
  • Lateral Partner and Mid/Senior Level Associate Searches
  • Practice Group & Office Head Leadership
  • Executive Committee and/or Board of Directors
  • Compensation Committee
  • Chairperson and/or Managing Partner
  • Formal Pitch Opportunities
  • Supervisory In-House Counsel Roles
  • In-House Corporate Legal Operations/Chief of Staff Roles
  • Deputy General Counsel and General Counsel Roles

Today, the WBA is a stronger organization because of its decision to admit Dovey Roundtree as a member of the WBA. The WBA remains a stalwart defender of equitable treatment for all people, regardless of race or any other characteristic. And nearly 60 years after Ms. Roundtree’s admission, the WBA has another opportunity to lead ground breaking work in the advancement and matriculation of attorneys of color by encouraging the adoption of the Roundtree Rule by Washington area law firms and legal departments.

[1] NALP did not separately track gender and ethnicity in 1993. However, in 2006 when NALP started tracking this information women of color only represented 1.48% of partners at major U.S. law firms. Thus, it is safe to assume that the bulk of 12.27% consisted of white women partners.

[2] NALP did not start separating their data collection of gender and ethnicity until 2006.

[3] Women and Minorities at Law Firms — What Has Changed and What Has Not in the Past 25 Years, NALP Bulletin, February 2018

[5] The statistics obtained for general counsels of fortune 500 companies, were provided by Jean Lee of Minority Corporate Counsel Association.

Lawyer, Activist Dovey Johnson Roundtree Remembered

Dovey Johnson Roundtree (Courtesy photo)

Attorney Dovey Mae Johnson Roundtree was memorialized by those who knew and admired her at a ceremony held Tuesday, June 5 at Allen Chapel AME Church in Southeast. The beloved and respected minister, army veteran, civil rights activist and attorney died on May 21 in Charlotte, N.C. at the age of 104.

The choir sang, and officials spoke to nearly 200 fellow lawyers, leaders of the AME Church, colleagues from the National Council of Negro Women, law students, church members and others who reflected on Roundtree’s life and legacy. A photo of her stood near the pulpit, and a white dove carved into eight stained glass windows around the church served as a reminder of her influence over the future of the law and religion.

“During a time when it was neither popular nor fashionable to stand tall as an African American female attorney, Attorney Roundtree opened the door and forged her way into the arena of civil rights law. She was unapologetic in her quest to pursue justice for all people,” said Reverend Glenda F. Hodges, assistant secretary of the AME Church Judicial Board.

Hodges reflected on Roundtree’s “significant firsts” including becoming the first female general counsel of the AME Church, the first of 40 women in the first class of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, the first African American member of D.C. Women’s Bar Association, and one of the first women ordained in AME church.

“Because of her monumental work in the 1955 bus desegregation victory before the Interstate Transportation Commission in the case of Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, Roundtree helped abolish separate but equal in interstate transportation, which allowed U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy a tool to combat southern resistance to the Freedom Riders campaign,” Hodges said.

In 1964, Roundtree successfully defended Ray Crump Jr., a Black man accused of murdering Mary Pinchot Meyer, the ex-wife of a CIA officer and the alleged mistress of President Kennedy. For the fee of one dollar, Roundtree presented a 30-minute case with only three witnesses — Crump was acquitted of all charges.

Roundtree continued to advocate for children, families and the less fortunate up until her retirement from the law in 1996. Hodges said, “She remained undaunted in the quest to save the generation which followed her from what she labeled the ‘demon of violence’.”

Roundtree was a minister at Allen Chapel AME, and in March 2013, an affordable senior living facility in Southeast, D.C. was named “The Roundtree Residences” in her honor.

Reverend John Thomas, also a minister at Allen, said it was Reverend Roundtree that gave the 11 o’clock sermon at Allen AME in October 1983, that “I came up and took her hand, and I joined this church.”

Her favorite song, Thomas said, was Somehow I Made It. “And after I read her book, I understood. She faced adversity all of her life, and she truly lived a legacy of service to others.”

Dr. Shirley Jackson, who represented the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), urged everyone to read Roundtree’s autobiography Justice Older than the Law, written with National Magazine Award winner Katie McCabe. The book won the 2009 Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Prize from the Association of Black Women Historians.

Jackson praised Roundtree for her work with Dr. Mary McCleod Bethune, founder of NCNW general counsel, and for her legal acumen needed to support the purchase of the NCNW headquarters, under the leadership of Dr. Dorothy I. Height, at 6th & Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

“She exhibited her skills in the ‘Art of the Deal,'” Jackson said. “She and her legal team negotiated a really good purchase deal and put together air-tight legal documents that prevented others who did not want to see us in that property from being able to wiggle us out. She was a legal mastermind.”

Jackson also spoke of Roundtree’s lack of wealth coupled with her commitment to serving the less fortunate. To help cover the church’s expenses, Jackson said, Roundtree “would go out on speaking engagements after a challenging day in court and give what she was paid to the church to pay its bills. Allen had a primary place in her heart.”

Born Dovey Mae Johnson in Charlotte, N.C. on April 17, 1914, Roundtree grew up with her parents and siblings in a household heavily influenced by the AME Church.

At the age of five, her father James Eliot Johnson reportedly died from influenza changing the trajectory of her life.

Through her grandmother Rachel Bryant Graham, a prominent figure in Charlotte’s Black community, Roundtree forged a relationship with Mary McLeod Bethune.

In 1934, Roundtree began her post-secondary studies at Spelman College in Atlanta.

Roundtree enrolled at Howard University School of Law in the fall of 1947. There civil rights played an enormous role in her matriculation with professors like James Nabrit Jr., George E.C. Hayes, and Thurgood Marshall. She also received her divinity degree from Howard.

“For years we marked her birthday as the oldest living graduate,” said HU associate dean Lisa Crooms-Robinson. “She is a forbearer on whose shoulders we at Howard University School of Law stand. We owe her a tremendous debt of gratitude for being our role model, for paving the way for us, for showing us how to be a social engineer and how to make a way when it appears to be no way at all.”

File:Dovey Roundtree in Charlotte, 1994.jpg

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