Monday, October 26, 2015

In Considering a Sentence for Tyrone Brooks, Consider His Overall Body of Work.

Any judge who considers an appropriate sentence for Tyrone Brooks should consider his contributions to society.

Throughout our nation’s history, progressive changes have come about in large part because activists have worked outside of official channels to create a climate that is more conducive to those changes.  In the words of Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.”

A story is told about Sidney Hillman, who served for a time as head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union.  After helping Franklin Roosevelt get elected in the Presidential campaign of 1932, Hillman is said to have gone to the White House and presented an ambitious agenda of progressive actions for the new President to take.  President Roosevelt supposedly replied: “Sidney, I agree with everything in your proposal. It is all exactly right.  Now you just go back home and make me do it.” 

Years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. is said to have had a similar conversation with President Lyndon Johnson.  In response to Dr. King’s call for voting rights legislation and for the appointment of more African American officials, President Johnson is said to have challenged Dr. King to essentially “make me do it”.

In more recent times, Representative Tyrone Brooks has played a role similar to that of Sidney Hillman and Martin Luther King.  With little thought for his own personal needs, he has worked outside of official channels to create a climate which made it easier for public officials to do the right thing. This letter provides just two examples.

When I first began practicing law, all of Georgia’s trial court judges were white, and few if any were female, and subsequent progress toward a more representative judiciary was initially very slow.  Through his work with the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge the method in which Georgia’s judges were selected, Tyrone Brooks helped to create an environment in which Governors Zell Miller and Roy Barnes were able through the appointment process to make our State’s judiciary (at least for a time) dramatically more representative of the communities that it serves.  The work toward a more representative judiciary continues to this day in our State, and we can personally testify that Representative Brooks remains a key ally.

Another example: For years, the people of Georgia were officially represented by a State Flag that was adopted as part of the State’s historic campaign of “massive resistance” against court-ordered desegregation.  Tyrone Brooks played a key role in raising awareness of the Flag’s sordid history.  It is largely through the efforts of people like Representative Brooks that Georgians now have a much more inclusive Official Symbol that no longer celebrates insurrection or the elevation of one group over another.

I am not too proud to say that I am a beneficiary of the work of people like Tyrone Brooks.  Like many of my contemporaries, I have been able to take advantage of opportunities which might not have existed without the work of activists who have opened doors that they themselves never passed through. 

As one considers a sentence for Representative Brooks, consideration should be given to his overall body of work, which on balance has significantly contributed toward making our world a better place.

Charles S. Johnson
Southern Regional Council

1 comment:

  1. Tyrone is a great man and a dear friend. Working in the Labor Movement he was always there for working families. I can recall traveling with Tyrone on several different issues from giving a voice to workers that were modern day slaves on the job to raising awareness of the importance of voting.
    He is a friend of all working people and I stand with him now as he stood with me more times than I can count.
    God Bless Tyrone and his family
    The Wall Street crowd can rob this country and nothing happens