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Hezekiah Sistrunk, Jr: The Death of a Friend and the Birth of a Lawyer

Hezekiah Sistrunk, Jr: The Death of a Friend and the Birth of a Lawyer

What initially attracted Atlanta PI-plaintiff attorney Hezekiah Sistrunk, Jr. to the law? It wasn’t “Perry Mason” or Atticus Finch. His uncle or father wasn’t a lawyer. It wasn’t because he had to be a doctor or a lawyer and he couldn’t stand the sight of blood.

It was the civil rights movement:

Our Q&A with Mr. Sistrunk, “Cochran’s Man in Atlanta,” can be read digitally or online.

Here’s a transcription of the above audio:

My town, which is a college town, has the major minority college for the state of South Carolina. It’s called South Carolina State University, and there’s another adjoining university called Clafin University.

As you can surmise from that, in the mid- to late- sixties, my town and the folks at the university, were involved in civil rights-type activities. And as a young man–a high school senior or something–I was there, watching, in the crowd, as civil rights activities were unfolding. A friend of mine was involved in those activities, along with us. His name was Delano Middleton, we called him “Bump” Middleton. And in 1968 there was an unrest as a part of people protesting for their right to public access to a bowling alley in my hometown. And there were three men shot, killed, as a part of that. Middleton, my friend from high school, was one of those three men.

You know, and you observed–or I observed as a kid–that during that time frame, folks were being arrested, put in jail, whatever, and they weren’t getting adequate representation because there weren’t a lot of black lawyers in Orangeburg, South Carolina, who had the wherewithal to get them out of jail. So folks would go to jail and lawyers would come from other places–I think there were NAACP lawyers, quite frankly, who would get folks out of jail. And I thought then, “There’s something wrong with our system of justice in a country where folks are doing what they think is right, and once they’re in prison they don’t have access to the law, to get them justice, and to get them out of jail.

Past Q&As for Georgia Super Lawyers magazine include:

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