J.L. Chestnut, a beloved hero of the civil rights movement and the ongoing struggles for justice for all in the United States, died on September 30th. J.L. was an outstanding lawyer who had a long and impressive history against racial injustice in the South. The man, who was “larger than life,” became Selma’s first black lawyer when he started to work there in 1959. Ultimately his law firm became Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders & Pettaway. During his legal career, J.L. handled a tremendous number of noteworthy cases.
J.L., who never saw a legal challenge he didn’t like, served as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s lead counsel to implement the Brown v. Board decision in Alabama. Dr. Martin Luther King and countless other civil rights leaders, including Ralph Abernathy, Dick Gregory, Joseph Lowery, James Foreman and Bernard Lafayette chose J.L. to be their lawyer and he always responded in a highly capable and often times colorful manner. This multi-talented man will be sorely missed by his family, friends and admirers. I learned a great deal from J.L. He was my friend and I will miss him.
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