Sept. 2, 1912
Civil rights lawyer R. Jess Brown was born in Kansas, grew up in Oklahoma, and moved to Mississippi after World War II.
After teaching school, he became involved in a 1948 lawsuit to equalize pay for Black and white teachers. Fired for that, he decided to become a lawyer. He, Jack Young Sr. and Carsie Hall were reportedly the only Black lawyers daring to tackle civil rights cases in Mississippi.
He represented a Black pastor in Jefferson Davis County, challenging Jim Crow laws that sought to bar Black votes. Brown also helped represent James Meredith in his successful bid in 1962 to enter the previously all-white University of Mississippi. Three years earlier, Brown and Young represented Mack Charles Parker, who was lynched before he could stand trial. A year after that, Brown represented Clyde Kennard, who was railroaded on a charge for “stealing chicken feed.”