Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.

Doctor of Laws

Far from hiding in the ivied towers of the Harvard Law School, where he is Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, Charles Ogletree has been a visible presence both in public forums and in courtrooms. Born in 1952 to parents who picked crops in central California, he has not only become a prominent legal theorist, but has also devoted himself to the active pursuit of civil rights for all.

After completing his B.A. and M.A. at Stanford University, Ogletree earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1978. He joined the Washington, D.C., public defender's office, where he rose through the ranks. In 1985 he became partner in the Washington firm of Jessamy, Fort & Ogletree, and the same year was appointed visiting professor at Harvard Law School. Within a few years he became director of Harvard's Trial Advocacy Workshop, founder and director of its Criminal Justice Institute, and founder of its Saturday School, which gives an educational boost to minority students.

In 1991 Ogletree served as legal counsel to Professor Anita Hill during the Senate confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas. In 1994 he co-authored a book, Beyond the Rodney King Story: An Investigation of Police Conduct in Minority Communities. He has been a dynamic presence on public television, moderating and commenting on legal matters, especially civil rights and minority issues. A prolific writer and a compelling speaker, he is an eternal optimist, known as someone who cannot say no to those who ask for his help.

Ogletree has spoken admiringly of Amherst for producing two of America's great civil rights attorneys: Charles Hamilton Houston '15, dean of the Howard Law School, and Judge William Henry Hastie '25. Amherst is proud to honor him in turn.

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