Judge John Minor Wisdom,the last survivor of the federal...

Deaths Elsewhere

May 16, 1999

Judge John Minor Wisdom,the last survivor of the federal appeals court that forced the Deep South to give up segregation, died yesterday in New Orleans.

Judge Wisdom would have turned 94 tomorrow. He had open-heart surgery in 1989, but 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals spokeswoman Denise Estopinal said she was not sure of the cause of death.

In the 1960s, while Martin Luther King Jr. was marshaling marchers and forcing the nation to reckon with the rights of its black citizens, Judge Wisdom and his fellow federal judges issued rulings forcing the Deep South to abolish its segregated society.

A Republican appointed to the court by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, he wrote decisions that helped open the doors of the University of Mississippi to James Meredith and sow the seeds of affirmative action. He fleshed out the 1954 Supreme Court decision calling for desegregating schools "with all deliberate speed" and expanded it beyond education.

Judge Wisdom and three fellow members of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals were called "The Four" by an outraged fellow judge who said they had destroyed the South. The others were Elbert Tuttle of Atlanta, John Brown of Houston and Richard Rives of Montgomery, Ala.

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