Black History: Special Delivery!!
Wiley Branton (1923 – 1988) was an African American attorney, freedom rider, and civil rights activist. Branton was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. After serving in the army in World War II, Branton spent time teaching blacks how to mark their election ballots after the war. This resulted in Branton being convicted of a misdemeanor for “teaching the mechanics of voting”. In 1952, Branton received a Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He was the 3rd black student to graduate from the school. Branton went on to serve as the chief counsel for the black plaintiffs in the 1957 Little Rock desegregation case.
Throughout his career, he made significant contributions in the arena of voting rights. In 1962 he became the first Executive Director of the Southern Regional Council’s Voter Education Project in Atlanta. The collaborative project registered over 600,000 black voters in 11 states and helped to highlight the 1965 Voting Rights Act.. Branton was also part of the Mississippi freedom riders that promoted voter registration throughout the south. He would go on to work for the U.S. government. He served as Executive Secretary to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Council on Equal Opportunity (1965-67) in Washington. Branton continued to travel throughout the south to register blacks to vote in support of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. From 1978-1983, Branton served as Dean of the Howard University School of Law. Wiley Branton died in 1988.
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