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The Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies
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FSP Unsung Foot Soldiers

Donald Hollowell (1917 - 2004)

Hollowell Chief counsel Donald Hollowell (far left) speaks with his clients Hamilton Holmes, Charlayne Hunter, and Hunter’s mother (far right).  Holmes and Hunter were the plaintiffs in the landmark lawsuit (Holmes v. Danner) that opened the doors of the University of Georgia to black students in 1961.  Courtesy of Marilyn Holmes

 

 

 

Donald L. Hollowell was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. Although in Kansas Hollowell did not encounter the intense Jim Crow restrictions of the South, he faced blatant racism and discrimination while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II.  Hollowell recounts that “army officials relegated him to eating in the kitchen, sleeping in quarters adjacent to prisoners, and patronizing Jim Crow canteens.” Hollowell’s experiences with segregation and discrimination and his involvement with the Southern Negro Youth Conference after the war inspired him to pursue the study of law to help in the fight for social justice. 

In 1947, Hollowell graduated magna cum laude from Lane College in Tennessee and earned his law degree from Loyola University in Chicago in 1951. In 1952, he set up a law practice in Atlanta, Georgia, and began to play a major role in the burgeoning civil rights struggle.  Hollowell became chief counsel for Horace T. Ward in the Ward v. Regents case that challenged segregation at the University of Georgia School of Law and helped civil rights plaintiffs prevail in a federal district court case (Hunt v. Arnold) against the Georgia State College of Business (now Georgia State University). Hollowell’s other noted contributions include his service as chief counsel to Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter in the landmark case (Holmes v. Danner) that opened the doors of the University of Georgia to black students in 1961.

In addition to the Holmes, Hunt, and Ward cases, Hollowell litigated several far-reaching civil rights cases in various state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court of Georgia and the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (now Eleventh Circuit). In King v. State of Georgia (1960), Hollowell and co-counsel Horace Ward won a victory in the Georgia Court of Appeals and secured the release of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Reidsville State Prison.  In another case, Hollowell and members of his firm prevented the electrocution of a 15-year-old black youth from Monticello, Georgia, five days before the scheduled execution.  Hollowell and civil rights champion C. B. King also defended Dr. King and hundreds of civil rights activists in the historic Albany Movement (Albany, Georgia civil rights campaign). Hollowell was also chief counsel in historic cases that enabled blacks to ride desegregated buses, in the Atlanta sit-in cases that opened up public facilities, and in numerous other precedent-setting civil rights cases.  These cases represent but a few of the legal efforts that have helped to make Donald L. Hollowell a legendary figure in Georgia and throughout the country.

In 1966, Hollowell’s brilliance, dedication, and legal skills led to his appointment as regional director of the Equal Opportunity Commission, making him the first black regional director of a major federal agency. His masterful achievements have won the gratitude of countless individuals, organizations, and institutions, including the NAACP, Council on Human Relations, ACLU, Emory University School of Law, Clark Atlanta University, Harvard University Law School, Atlanta Urban League, and WSB Radio.  He has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Spelman College and on the executive committee of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. 

Hollowell was married to Louise T. Hollowell, a magna cum laude graduate of Morris Brown College and a distinguished Professor of English (Emeritus) at Morris Brown College.  In 1997, Louise Hollowell and Martin Lehfeldt authored a book titled The Sacred Call: A Tribute to Donald L. Hollowell—Civil Rights Champion, which chronicles Hollowell's service and achievements. The book also tells the love story of Donald and Louise Hollowell, who celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary in 2004.  

For Hollowell’s unparalleled contributions and public service and his impact on equity and diversity in America, in 2001, Foot Soldier Project Director Maurice C. Daniels nominated him for a University of Georgia Honorary Degree.  In 2002, the University of Georgia conferred the honorary Doctor of Laws upon Mr. Hollowell. Hollowell was the 75th recipient of the degree which, after the earned doctorate, is the highest recognition UGA can bestow.  As a Georgia citizen who fought vigorously for liberty and justice for all, with an incalculable impact on democracy in our state and our nation, no one was more deserving of this honor than Donald L. Hollowell.  The 87-year-old civil rights pioneer died of heart failure on December 27, 2004, but his legacy lives on among the scores of persons that he influenced and uplifted.

Maurice C. Daniels, Ed.D. and Derrick P. Alridge, Ph.D.

Sources: TheSacred Call: A Tribute to Donald L. Hollowell—Civil Rights Champion by Louise Hollowell and Martin. C. Lehfeldt and Horace T. Ward: Desegregation of the University of Georgia, Civil Rights Advocacy, and Jurisprudence by Maurice C. Daniels.

Video Clip
Hollowell

Donald L. Hollowell reflects on the long, hard struggle to desegregate the University of Georgia;  Hollowell's mentee, civil rights leader Vernon Jordan, highlights the significance of the victory in the landmark Holmes v. Danner case.

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