David M. Grant

David M. Grant, lawyer and civil rights activist, is standing at right in 1952.

Saint Louis University School of Law’s David Grant Clinic Student Award Ceremony will take place on Thursday May 12. The program honors clinic student achievements in the Summer and Fall 2015 and 2016 Spring Semesters.

The award is named in honor of David M. Grant, African-American lawyer and civil rights leader, born in the Mill Creek Valley area of St. Louis.

A 1918 graduate of Sumner High School, Grant played cello for his brother’s jazz band on a New Orleans’ steamboat in the 20s while saving money to attend the University of Michigan from 1920 to 23. In 1927, he enrolled in Howard University Law School, graduating in 1930. Back in St. Louis, Grant became active in Democratic politics and successfully urged black voters to switch party loyalties from the Republican party.

During his career, Grant used the picket or threat of picket to great effect. In 1931, he organized the first black picket for economic justice in St. Louis in front of the Woolworth Store after the new store refused to hire a single black clerk.

After that success, he went on to organize the Colored Clerks’ Circle. By publicizing the fact that St. Louis had passed a bond issue in 1923 that included a million dollars for a new, but unbuilt, black hospital,

Grant helped elect the first Democratic mayor in 24 years.

Mayor Bernard Dickmann began construction of Homer G. Phillips Hospital as soon as he took office.

Grant served as Assistant Circuit Attorney from 1941 until he was fired for representing the NAACP in a protest against a lynching in Sikeston. During the early 40s he served with Thurgood Marshall on the Legal Redress Committee of the NAACP, and as president of the St. Louis chapter from 1945-48. When sit-ins were organized by black women to integrate lunch counters in downtown St. Louis, Grant represented all of the arrested women. In 1945 he brought suit against Washington University to open the school to blacks or lose its tax exempt status, taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court before the school integrated in 1948.

In 1957, he was appointed director of the St. Louis Board of Alderman’s Legislative Research which he held for the remainder of his life. In 1960, he served with Eleanor Roosevelt on the National Democrat Platform Committee, and in 1962, President John F. Kennedy appointed him as a delegate to represent the U.S. at the celebration of Uganda’s independence.

Saint Louis University School of Law’s David Grant Clinic Student Award Ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. on Thursday May 12 at Scott Hall, 100 N. Tucker.

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