Elbert Parr Tuttle
Chief Jurist of the Civil Rights Revolution

Anne Emanuel

The previously untold life story of a remarkable civil rights champion


"In her thorough and engaging biography of Tuttle, Georgia State University law professor Anne Emanuel has documented Tuttle's extraordinary life. For those interested in America's racial history and transformation, this book is a must— a tour de force, covering not just Tuttle but the often violent times he lived in."
—Nina Totenberg, NPR.org

"I have read the biography of Judge Tuttle, written by one of his former law clerks . . . and I commend it to everybody in the room to learn about what kind of a judge Elbert Tuttle was. He was really a surprisingly fine judge."
—Justice John Paul Stevens

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This is the first—and the only authorized—biography of Elbert Parr Tuttle (1897–1996), the judge who led the federal court with jurisdiction over most of the Deep South through the most tumultuous years of the civil rights revolution. By the time Tuttle became chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, he had already led an exceptional life. He had cofounded a prestigious law firm, earned a Purple Heart in the battle for Okinawa in World War II, and led Republican Party efforts in the early 1950s to establish a viable presence in the South. But it was the inter­section of Tuttle’s judicial career with the civil rights movement that thrust him onto history’s stage.

When Tuttle assumed the mantle of chief judge in 1960, six years had passed since Brown v. Board of Education had been decided but little had changed for black southerners. In landmark cases relating to voter registration, school desegregation, access to public transportation, and other basic civil liberties, Tuttle’s determination to render justice and his swift, decisive rulings neutralized the delaying tactics of diehard segregationists—including voter registrars, school board members, and governors—who were determined to preserve Jim Crow laws throughout the South.

Author Anne Emanuel maintains that without the support of the federal courts of the Fifth Circuit, the promise of Brown might have gone unrealized. Moreover, without the leadership of Elbert Tuttle and the moral authority he commanded, the courts of the Fifth Circuit might not have met the challenge.

Southern Legal Studies

Page count: 440 pp.
49 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9

Read more about Elbert Parr Tuttle at the New Georgia Encyclopedia.


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Anne Emanuel is a professor of law at Georgia State University. She clerked for Judge Tuttle during his tenure on the Fifth Circuit. In addition, Emanuel has practiced in a private law firm and clerked for Chief Justice Harold Hill of the Georgia Supreme Court.