“Charles J. Ogletree Jr., Influential Harvard Law Professor and Mentor to Barack and Michelle Obama, Dies at 70”

By | August 6, 2023



Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a prominent Harvard law professor known for his work in criminal justice and civil rights, passed away at the age of 70 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Ogletree mentored a new generation of Black lawyers, including Barack and Michelle Obama. He played a significant role in high-profile cases, such as representing Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and assisting survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre in suing for restitution. Ogletree’s legacy includes expanding Harvard Law School’s clinical training and advocating for racial justice. Clay Risen reported

Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a renowned Harvard law professor and civil rights lawyer, passed away at the age of 70. He was known for his significant contributions to criminal justice, school desegregation, and reparations discussions during the 1990s and 2000s. Notably, he mentored a new generation of Black lawyers, including President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. Ogletree was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2015 and publicly announced his condition a year later. Born into a family of California tenant farmers, he overcame poverty to become a prominent civil rights lawyer, leaving a lasting impact in the courtroom and the classroom. As a litigator, he defended both famous and unknown clients, such as Tupac Shakur and the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre. He was dedicated to ensuring fair treatment for Black individuals within the legal system. As a professor at Harvard Law School, Ogletree expanded the institution’s clinical training efforts, founded the Criminal Justice Institute, and created the Saturday School program to support Black students on a predominantly white campus. He had a close relationship with President Obama, serving as a mentor and advisor during his 2008 presidential campaign. Ogletree gained national attention in 1991 when he served as lead counsel to Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings. He also made contributions to civil rights jurisprudence through his writings, including “All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown v. Board of Education.” Although he faced controversy due to accidental plagiarism, he remained committed to addressing racial inequalities. Ogletree’s legacy as a pioneering civil rights advocate and mentor to future leaders will continue to shape the field of law..