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

“Anne Emanuel admirably describes the career—in war, politics, and law—of a judge who was at the center of enforcing civil rights law in the 1960s. Full of interesting detail, Elbert Parr Tuttle tells us much about how one person’s life can shape the law.”
—Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

"The role of federal judges in the civil rights movement has been studied thoroughly, but Anne Emanuel has a larger story to tell about the man who served as chief judge of the largest appeals court in the South during the heyday of court-ordered racial desegregation. Elbert Tuttle, raised in Hawaii and educated in New York, led a remarkable life long before being appointed to the bench. He was active working to promote civil liberties during the 1930s, went to war in middle age and became a decorated combat veteran, and helped to secure Dwight Eisenhower’s nomination for President during the bitter 1952 Republican Convention. All the while he was a quiet, unassuming father of two and co-partner in one of the most successful law firms in the region. Emanuel knew the judge, has mined his working papers, and writes with a sure feel for this modest man who cast such a large shadow over his adopted South."
—Dennis J. Hutchinson, William Rainey Harper Professor in the College and Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Chicago

"If Earl Warren led the Supreme Court in finding public school racial segregation unconstitutional in its 1954-55 rulings in Brown vs. Board, Elbert Tuttle led the federal judiciary's enforcement of that ruling throughout the Deep South. Anne Emanuel leaves no doubt of this in her biography. But beyond the legal what, why and how of Tuttle's actions as chief judge of the old Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' bench in Atlanta, she also recounts the personal history that, other than law and precedent, must have motivated him. Would that this background had been readily available to those of us who reported the civil rights struggle in the critical years of the 1960s."
—Claude Sitton, New York Times correspondent and national editor, 1958-1968

"Anne Emanuel's important new book, Elbert Parr Tuttle, reminds us that some legal conflicts are destined to come down to a judge and an angry mob."
—Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic

"[T]hroughout the biography, [Emanuel] produces nugget after nugget of Tuttle's rich, full life. . . . Emanuel is also at her best recounting, in riveting passages, the landmark civil rights cases Tuttle presided over as chief judge of the 5th Circuit during the 1960s."
—Bill Rankin, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"[Elbert Parr Tuttle] is a sobering and enlightening account of a time in U.S. history when important questions about access to opportunity, justice, and fairness were being asked and answered."
—Sally Jo Vasicko, Journal of Southern History

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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.