Joseph L. Rauh Jr.

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Joseph L. Rauh, Jr.
Born (1911-01-03)January 3, 1911
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Died September 3, 1992(1992-09-03) (aged 81)
Washington, D.C.
Alma mater University of Cincinnati
Harvard Law School
Spouse(s) Olie Westheimer (1935–his death)
Children B. Michael Rauh, Carl S. Rauh

Joseph Louis Rauh, Jr. (January 3, 1911 – September 3, 1992) was one of the United States' foremost civil rights and civil liberties lawyers. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President Bill Clinton on November 30, 1993.

Early life[edit]

Rauh was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of a German immigrant shirt manufacturer. He did not follow in his father's footsteps, however, shirking textiles for Harvard University. There, he played center for the Ivy League school's basketball team. He graduated magna cum laude with a degree in economics in 1932, continuing his education at Harvard Law School, where he finished first of his class.[1]

After clerking at the Supreme Court, Rauh eventually was commissioned into the Army at the rank of lieutenant in 1942, working as a lend-lease expert in the midst of World War II. He ultimately reached the rank of lieutenant colonel. He returned to Washington after the war and worked in private practice, focusing his efforts on fighting for civil liberties.

Work on civil rights[edit]

March on Washington August 28, 1963, showing Joseph L. Rauh Jr. (center), with Martin Luther King, Jr. (left), Whitney Young, Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther, and Sam Weinblatt.

Rauh is best known for his championing of various civil rights causes.

In 1947, he helped found Americans for Democratic Action, alongside Eleanor Roosevelt and Hubert Humphrey, among others.

Starting as a Democratic National Convention delegate in July 1948, he was a leader that year in writing up the civil rights plank for Humphrey. In the letter of support promoting his award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, its authors described the plank as "the foundation for all of the human rights and equal protection laws that have since been enacted."[2]

Green served as attorney for William Remington. On September 12, 1948 (a Sunday) at 8:30 PM, Elizabeth Bentley appeared again the first-ever television broadcast via WNBT of NBC's Meet the Press and was the first interviewed. Journalists included: Nelson Frank, Inez Robb, Cecil Brown, and Lawrence Spivak. Cecil Brown asked her three times whether she would accuse William Remington of being a communist outside of congressional protection, she finally did so. Joseph Rauh defended him before a Truman Loyalty Review Board. His attorney Green asked on Remington's asked for her to withdraw the allegations by September 30. When she did not, Green filed for Remington a libel suit against Bentley, NBC, and its television sponsor General Foods Corporation on October 6, 1948. Bentley failed to appear in court in October. On December 29, 1948, Green said he had personally served a summons on her (while, on the same day, judges and lawyers agreed to suspend Alger Hiss's libel suit against Whittaker Chambers due to Justice indictments against Hiss on two counts of perjury two weeks before).[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

In 1959, Rauh successfully represented Quaker printer David H. Scull before the US Supreme Court in Scull v. Virginia ex rel. Committee on Law Reform & Racial Activities, which concerned aggressive and unclear questioning by the pro-segregation chairman of a Virginia legislative committee, which had led to a contempt citation the Supreme Court overturned.

Rauh also lobbied Congress for the passage of many civil rights bills, having a hand in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. In addition, he fought against McCarthyism and was a long-time executive board member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.[11]


  • In 1993 he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton.
  • In 1983 he received the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Awards for the freedom of speech.[12]


  1. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (September 5, 1992). "Joseph Rauh Jr., Groundbreaking Civil Liberties Lawyer, Dies at 81". New York Times. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "Radio and Television: 'Meet the Press' Goes on NBC Video Network Starting Sunday". New York Times. 10 September 1948. p. 46. 
  4. ^ "Radio and Television Programs: Today's Leading Events: Television". New York Times. 12 September 1948. p. X8. 
  5. ^ "Remington Makes Libel Suit Threats". Washington Post. 24 September 1948. p. 10. 
  6. ^ "Board Doubts If Remington Was Loyal". Washington Post. 29 September 1948. p. 3. 
  7. ^ "Fact or Libel". Washington Post. 30 September 1948. p. 14. 
  8. ^ "Remington Files $100,000 Libel Suit: Names Miss Bentley, Who Said He Was a Communist, NBC and Television Sponsor". New York Times. 7 October 1948. p. 9. 
  9. ^ "Leonard Lyons". New York Times. 14 October 1948. p. B14. 
  10. ^ "Elizabeth Bentley Served in Libel Suit". Washington Post. 30 December 1948. p. 10. 
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-03-25. Retrieved 2015-04-04.