Former U.S. Attorney Recalls Civil Rights Movement

Friday, February 13th 2009, 10:11 pm
By: News 9

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- John Green is a former U.S. Attorney who broke racial barrier and made history.

At one point, Green was one of only three black U.S. Attorneys in the country and was known for his hard work and brilliant legal mind. He has ties to several pioneers of the civil rights movement.

Watch John Green tell his story about coming up in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement.

Eric Holder made history this month when he became the first African American to become U.S. attorney general, but years before Holder's rise to prominence Green was making a name for himself as a tough prosecutor.

"People were really curious what would happen here with an African-American for the western judicial district of Oklahoma," Green said.

He stayed with the office for 35 years, quickly rising through the ranks initially becoming the First assistant U.S. attorney and later the acting U.S. Attorney, trying cases ranging from counterfeiting to criminal threats.

"One person, white fellow, from Mississippi, when he walked in the courtroom and saw that I was the prosecutor he just broke down and started crying," Green said.

Throughout his life and legal career, Green had a front row seat to history.

Green and Dr. Martin Luther King attended Morehouse College together. They were fraternity brothers and good friends, although Green never imagined Dr. King would be the face and voice of a movement.

"We had no idea whatsoever," Green said. "He never was on the debate team. I don't even think he even tried."

Green met fellow fraternity brother, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, while receiving an award in Lawton. At that time, Marshall was a civil rights attorney getting ready to argue his landmark case Brown verses the Board of Education.

"He made a remark while he was speaking, ‘People might as well get ready for it. we're going to integrate the schools.'" Green said.

The two men stayed in touch even after Marshall's appointment to the high court.

"He was still the same person that he was before," Green said.

Green holds the same opinion of Attorney General Holder, who he met while Holder was teaching courses at the Department of Justice. Green was in his class.

"He's a very capable person," Green said. "He can be very fair. He knows the law. He can stand the heat."

Green offers this advice.

"Stay the course," Green said. "Give honest opinions about it and not lose sight of what they believe deep down inside."

What the full interview with former U.S. Attorney John Green.