Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership Styles

BOND: Now, I, of course, never saw Thurgood Marshall in the court room but I've listened over and over again to his argument in Cooper v. Aaron, and I'm surprised at the passion he brings to it. Not that he wasn't supposed to be passionate about these cases, but somehow or another it seemed to me odd in that setting, in the Supreme Court. How different was Jack Greenberg or Nabrit from that passionate style of Marshall?

CHAMBERS: Well, I think both Jack and [James] Nabrit had a tremendous impact in the court because I was about to say earlier when you were talking about the quiet person and the influence, it all depends on the substance of what the person is presenting.

BOND: Surely.

CHAMBERS: And I think Jack or Jim presented substance. In Thurgood's case, Thurgood presented substance, but you had to appreciate a court that didn't care what substance that you were presenting. And you had to do a little bit more than what you would ordinarily expect in a discussion in the Supreme Court. So I think that Thurgood had to employ and did employ the right kind of approach with it.

BOND: Again, I never saw Greenberg in court, but he strikes me as much more low key than Marshall. And I never saw Nabrit, but he also strikes me as much more low key. And are you attributing that both to personality differences and a change in the composition of the audience? The judges, the justices who are being addressed, who are being appealed to? Have they begun to change by the time Greenberg comes along as opposed to Thurgood?

CHAMBERS: Yeah. First of all, Jack was back there with Thurgood.

BOND: Yes, they're contemporaries.

CHAMBERS: But I would think so. I think when Thurgood started he was there with a court that really wasn't that moved by any substantive arguments about the unfairness or unconstitutionality of discrimination. And he had to appeal to other — to other means. Jack, on the other hand, had precedents that he could call upon and he had substantive areas of arguments that he could present — and he did — that would convince a court that it ought to provide different results. I listen to Joe Rauh argue in the Supreme Court in the sit-in cases. And it was the most impressive argument that I have heard in the Supreme Court. He was carrying on a regular dialogue. But Joe could raise his voice when he felt it was necessary. And he could talk softly when he thought that would carry the point. And I think that that was a great display of — well, you call it flamboyance, raising a voice and also talking softly and presenting a very substantive and moving argument. So I think all and all, all of them were great. And they had to do what they did for the moment. Another example was Connie Motley. Connie had substance, but she could really be impassioned at times, when she thought it was appropriate. I remember a number of discussions in court with some district court judges who didn't care much about what she was talking about. And how through her voice and her expression, she was able to have an impact when one ordinarily would not have been able to have in that court. So people have different approaches. And I think that many of them, at least I did, employed those approaches depending on the circumstance.