Entertaining real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life. The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on November 18th, 2014

George "Citizen" Barrett: A Tennessee lawyer who took cases most lawyers avoided.

George-barrett
George-barrett   Photo: nashvillecitypaper.com

In 1960, when black people and a handful of white people held peaceful sit-ins at segregated Deep South lunch counters, they were often beaten and thrown in jail.

George Barrett, a white attorney, represented and helped to free those people who had broken no laws, just violated ugly customs.

In another example of Deep South racism, the state of Tennessee had long segregated its schools.

And consistent with that practice, in 1968, the state was going to fund a large expansion of the nearly all white University of Tennessee, while Tennessee State University, a historically black school, would largely do without.

That is until George arrived.

He became the attorney for lead plaintiff Rita Sanders (now Rita Sanders Geier), a Tennessee State instructor, as they challenged the inequality of the university system.

Over the next 38 years, (that's right, 38 years) this case took many twists and turns but eventually in 2006, Ms. Geier, George, et al. prevailed, as desegregation was completed with equality in funding.

During this time, George's other clients included anti-war protesters, shareholders and trade unions. He even represented the Ku Klux Klan in a free speech case.

In addition George challenged Microsoft in an antitrust case, accusing them of purposely designing an operating system that was incompatible with other company's products. He won.

Working into his 80's, in 2010 George convinced Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen to commute the death sentence of a woman on death row. She had unjustly served 25 years behind bars, for paying a man to kill her abusive husband.

George, who recently passed away at the age of 86 offered insight into his philosophy last year in his keynote address to Springfield College's Class of 2013.

"I went to law school to become, in the words of [Supreme Court] Justice Brandeis, a social engineer. And as such, my practice as a lawyer has been marked by advocating for the rights of the disadvantaged.

"Whether they be working people, or poor people, or nonwhite people, or just people without a voice, I have advocated for them against the powerful and the unjust."

Success Tip of the Week: As George did, please find the courage to act on your principles or those principles lose their meaning.

Editor's Note: To learn more, click here from which the keynote quote was taken.

Ms. Geier is now an attorney in the Office of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. http://law.vanderbilt.edu

In the next KazanToday: An actor who overcame a very difficult early life to become a Hollywood Superstar.

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