Monday, October 1, 2007

On Teaching Brown and Getting Fired

Eric Muller, at Is That Legal? and PrawfsBlawg, has a great post remembering his Univ. of North Carolina colleague Bill Murphy, who just passed away at the age of 87. Eric writes:
On August 6, 1962, the following brief article ran on page 22 of the New York Times:
Teacher, Target of Attacks, Resigns in Mississippi
OXFORD, Miss., Aug. 5 (UPI)-- A University of Mississippi law professor who has been the target of segregationists for several years has resigned to take a better position at the University of Missouri. William P. Murphy, attacked by legislators and others because he is a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, will become a full professor of law at Missouri Sept. 1. He has been at Mississippi since 1953. His resignation came after the State College Board had refused to renew his contract. The professor first came under attack in 1959. That year, however, the College Board rehired him. In 1960, an unsuccessful attempt was made in the Legislature to cut off state funds to anyone belonging to the Civil Liberties Union.
Bill Murphy, my colleague and friend, died yesterday in Chapel Hill at the age of 87. He was absolutely everything any law professor might aspire to be -- erudite, passionate about justice and fairness, and equally engaged in the worlds of ideas and action.
The New York Times doesn't mention it, but the "offense" that got Bill Murphy(effectively) fired at Ole Miss was his insistence on teaching that Brown v. Board of Education was the law of the land and should be followed rather than resisted.

The story continues, with an excerpt from Murphy's oral history, here.