January 2, 2005 by

Donald L. Hollowell


Categories: Law, Military

dhollowell.jpgDonald Lee Hollowell, the venerable civil rights attorney who once sprung the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. from prison, died on Dec. 27 of heart failure. He was 87.
Born in Wichita, Kan., Hollowell earned his high school diploma while serving for six years with the U.S. Army 10th Cavalry, the regiment known as the Buffalo Soldiers in the Old West. He attended Lane College in Jackson, Tenn., but dropped out of school and reenlisted when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. During World War II, he rose to the rank of captain while fighting in Europe.
Hollowell returned to Lane after the war to complete his education, then earned a law degree from Loyola University in Chicago. After settling in Atlanta, he supported the civil rights movement through the legal system. Hollowell represented King in 1960 when the civil rights leader was sent to Georgia’s Reidsville Prison on a traffic charge. He represented Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes Jr., and helped them desegregate the University of Georgia.
Hollowell’s firm helped desegregate Atlanta’s schools and Augusta’s buses, and later won a landmark case that required Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital to admit black doctors and dentists to its staff. The firm also came to the defense of Preston Cobb, a black teen who was sentenced to die for allegedly killing a white man. Hollowell stopped the execution and got Cobb released. In his spare time, Hollowell defended hundreds of lesser-known civil rights protesters and mentored young black lawyers, including Vernon Jordan, an adviser to Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and Horace Ward, a federal judge.
In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Hollowell to be the first director of the southeastern office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a government agency that monitors workplace discrimination. He remained at the EEOC for nearly 20 years. A former president of the Voter Education Project, Hollowell helped increase the number of African-American voters from 3 million to 5.5 million.
For his lifetime of achievement and dedication to civil rights, the Emory University law school established a professorship in his name and the city of Atlanta named a street after him. Hollowell’s undergrad alma mater plans to name its library in his honor.

5 Responses to Donald L. Hollowell

  1. Glenavary A. Rasheed

    I am a 1965 graduate of D.T. Howard High School, Atlanta, Georgia. I have so many fun memories of this GREAT Man! I shall never forget his corageous stand for Freedom, Justice and Equality! He is indeed a Man of great Courage, humble, NEVER full of himself and was an unwavering SOLDIER during the 60’s! As I and my Classmates from D.T. Howard prepare to celebrate our 40th High School Reunion, we shall continue to remember and instill in our children and Grandchildren, the values that were so important to him and my parents and how important it is today (MORESO) that we NEVER, EVER GIVE UP!!! When I think of this GREAT WARRIOR, I can only say, “Happy Moments, praise God; Difficult moments seek God; Quiet moments, worship God; Painful moments, trust God; Every moment, Thank God! People……like trees…..often need storms to reveal their strength………He was truly a strong man, with stong principles, he will certainly be missed…

  2. joseph

    I am Joseph Cobb the brother of the above mentioned Preston Cobb, after reading my brother’s brilliant defense by Don Hollowell, I am convinced the he is one of the true icon’s in civil rights law defense. As the legal adviser to one Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I am further conviced that the signifiance of Mr. Hollowell’s contribution to the advancement of civil rights has not been given his proper place in the history of African American History.

  3. Al

    My presence in his life for the most part came during a time I felt was best. To my life upon our meeting a purpose was added. For the 25 plus years the pleasure of being at his service was mine. No greater person in my life shall I have the opportunity of knowing. Thankful am I to have been given this honor to serve and at all times protect such a Man.

  4. Lynda W. Smith

    I wonder what would Mr.Hollowell-Citizen would do if here were to see the situation with what the lack of a focused education for our youth, our future has produced? It’s a shame that in the city of Atlanta, even the brightest student wouldn’t know who Mr. Hollowell is. The tribute I give is for a call to action in his mane. God Bless Mr. Hollowell.

  5. BJHewitt

    The expressions and even the regrets above are most appreciated. FYI, at 1pm today, November 20, 2008, an Art Spray Park will be dedicated to commemorate our late civil rights leader, Mr. Donald Lee Hollowell. The Art Spray Park has been created in Center Hill Park on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway. The artist is Ms. Maria Artemis. My husband, Ronald J. Hewitt, Jr., served on the design committee. I will provide an update after the program. Peace.

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