Topic: Thelton Henderson

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Thelton Eugene Henderson (born 1933, Shreveport, Louisiana) is currently a federal judge in the Northern District of California. He has played an important role in the field of civil rights as a lawyer, educator, and jurist.

Henderson received both his undergraduate and law degrees from University of California, Berkeley. In 1962, he became the Justice Department's first African-American lawyer in the Civil Rights Division. He was sent to the South to monitor local law enforcement for any civil rights abuses, a role that included investigating the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church which killed four girls. In this capacity he became acquainted with Martin Luther King and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, after winning over their initial skepticism of a government attorney.

After a stint in private practice, he served as director of a legal aid center in East Palo Alto, California. In 1969, he became assistant dean at Stanford Law School, where he established the minority recruiting program and helped diversify the student body, and assisted in creating Stanford's clinical program. During this time, he also served as consultant to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Office of Economic Opportunity, Carnegie Corporation, and Ford Foundation. In 1977, he left Stanford to form a law firm which specialized in civil rights, civil liberties and other issues of constitutional law, and also was a law professor at Golden Gate University.

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