I am delighted to be here with members of the faculty, students, and lawyers. Let me initially express my surprise to see this many persons who are interested in coming to a seminar on this topic, but I am honored that the sponsors of this symposium--the Ernestine Sapp Chapter of BLSA and the Jones Law Review--requested my presence. Incidentally, Ernestine Sapp is here today. I believe she is the first African American graduate of this law school to be admitted to the Alabama State Bar. We are thankful to the Law Review and the law school for deciding to name this event the Fred Gray, Sr. Civil Rights Symposium. I guess one way you know you are getting old is when people start naming things after you.
I am very delighted that they are having this symposium on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, because that Act is responsible for thousands of minorities being able to serve effectively in legislative bodies across this nation. There are certain prerogatives that exist when a symposium is named after you, when you have been practicing law in the same community for years, and when you are a member of the Board of Trustees of the University where you are speaking. Having this symposium named after me carries along with it certain privileges and one of those privileges is that I can select the topic and discuss whatever I want. That means I am not going to talk about what I have been assigned.
I am going to talk about the Voting Rights Act, but I am going to talk about the historical perspective, because you young people and many of you old ones have no idea what African Americans have gone through over the years to be where we are today. We understand where we are, and there are people who think we have arrived. Even many persons of color who occupy positions do not realize why they are there and how they got there. Sometimes the way they act in those positions makes you wonder whether they should be there, but they are. So I want to give you a little of the history of why this Act is important.
It did not just happen. It did not happen as a result of the Selma to Montgomery March as some people think. Rather, there had been problems in this city. I was born here on December 14, 1930, and I know something about those problems. I represented a client nine months before Rosa Parks on a case involving similar circumstances. The problems to be solved by the bus boycott did not start on December 1. The problems to be solved with the Selma to Montgomery March, which certainly resulted in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, (2) did not start in 1965.
As you know, "We the People" in the Preamble to the United States Constitution, as originally adopted, has not changed. The "We the People" did not include...