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William L. Taylor

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Title: William L. Taylor  
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Subject: List of law clerks of the Supreme Court of the United States (Chief Justice), List of law clerks of the Supreme Court of the United States, American Jews
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William L. Taylor

William Lewis Taylor (October 4, 1931 – June 28, 2010) was an American attorney and lobbyist who advocated on behalf of African Americans during the civil rights era and played a major role in drafting civil rights legislation.

Taylor was born on October 4, 1931 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where he was harassed by his anti-Semitic Italian neighbors, later recalling of his youth that "I remember being pushed around as a kid and being called a 'Christ killer'". In speeches over the years he said that as a Jewish teenager he had experienced anti-Semitism in a neighborhood that Jews shared mainly with Italians. He first became aware of anti-African American prejudice when he saw whites harassing Jackie Robinson, when he stepped over the baseball color line while playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.[1]

Taylor attended Stanford Law School.[1]

During the 1950s, Taylor was a successful contestant on the Tic-Tac-Dough game show, where he had been offered answers by the producers, which he refused to accept. After appearing before a grand jury investigation of cheating on quiz shows, the jury foreman informed him that he had been the most successful of any of the show's contestants who had not cheated.[1]

Taylor worked with Thurgood Marshall at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, assisting in civil rights cases that arose in the wake of the United States Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. After the Little Rock, Arkansas school board decided to end a desegregation program in 1958, Taylor wrote a brief that convinced the court to require the continued integration of its schools.[1][2]

He served as general counsel, and later as staff director, at the United States Commission on Civil Rights during the 1960s, where his research helped lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.[2] There he helped formulate a voluntary desegregation plan in the 1980s for the St. Louis, Missouri school system.[1] With United States District Court Judge William L. Hungate threatening to impose a mandate to combine the St. Louis and St. Louis County public school systems, Taylor was able to avert the threat by offering an interdistrict transfer program that the city and county districts agreed to voluntarily.[4]

As vice chairman of the nomination of Robert Bork to the United States Supreme Court, which ultimately failed in the United States Senate.[1] Ralph Neas, who chaired the Block Bork coalition recounted how Taylor's team "examined every article, every speech, every decision, every statement that Robert Bork ever made", providing the supporting material that blocked Bork's path to nomination.[2]

He helped draft the 2002 legislation for the No Child Left Behind Act, with the aim of increasing the quality of education by monitoring student performance on standardized tests. Former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings described Taylor as "a huge champion for closing the achievement gap, for accountability".[2]

A resident of Washington, D.C., Taylor died at age 78 on June 28, 2010, at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland due to fluid in his lungs, the result of a head injury he suffered in an accidental fall one month before his death.[1][2] He was survived by a son, two daughters and three grandchildren. His 1980 marriage to the former Harriett Elaine Rosen ended with her death in 1997.[1]

Taylor's personal papers and archives were given to the [5][6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Martin, Douglas. "William Taylor, Vigorous Rights Defender, Dies at 78", The New York Times, June 29, 2010. Accessed June 30, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Brown, Emma. "William L. Taylor, 78; Washington lawyer, champion of civil rights", The Washington Post, June 30, 2010. Accessed June 30, 2010.
  3. ^ Arenson, Karen W. "Commencements; College Honors Man It Tried To Discredit", The New York Times, June 2, 2001. Accessed June 30, 2010.
  4. ^ Freivogel, William H. "William L. Taylor, civil rights lawyer who created St. Louis' deseg plan", St. Louis Beacon, June 29, 2010. Accessed June 30, 2010.
  5. ^ Finding Aid to the William L. Taylor papers, 1971-1996, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
  6. ^ Guide to the William L. Taylor Papers, 1954-2009, Special Collections Research Center, Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library, The George Washington University

External links

  • Guide to the William L. Taylor papers, 1954-2009, Special Collections Research Center, Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library, The George Washington University
  • Finding Aid to the William L. Taylor papers, 1971-1996, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
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