The John Minor Wisdom Courthouse, home of the U.S. Fifth Circuit, is a cathedral. Anyone who has ever been inside of it has been awed. Any lawyer who has stood at the lectern in one of its three courtrooms has been humbled.
Today, many people probably don’t know the history made in that building. To state the case briefly: The Supreme Court in Washington, DC, decided Brown v. Board of Education, which made “separate but equal” unconstitutional. The judges in the Fifth Circuit made that decision a reality in the deep south. Today, the Fifth Circuit includes Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. In those days, it also included Florida, Alabama, and Georgia. The judges were all white males. The leading figure was John Minor Wisdom, a Republican appointed by Ike Eisenhower.
Today, the courthouse is named after John Minor Wisdom. And yesterday, the courthouse was designated a National Historic Landmark. Every lawyer who ever argued a case in that building knows that she or he was on hallowed ground. Now it’s official.