Last Updated on August 6, 2023 by Robert C. Hoopes
Harvard Law Professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a prominent figure in criminal justice reform, passed away at his residence in Odenton, Md., at the age of 70. Renowned for his influential contributions to reframing debates around criminal justice, school desegregation, and reparations during the 1990s and 2000s, Ogletree will be remembered for his lasting impact on the legal community.
Among his many accomplishments, Ogletree was particularly revered for mentoring a new generation of Black lawyers. Among his mentees were none other than former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Through his guidance and support, Ogletree played a significant role in shaping the careers of these two influential figures.
In 2015, Ogletree received a devastating diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Despite this grave setback, he openly discussed his condition with the public a year later, raising awareness about the disease and becoming a source of inspiration for others in similar circumstances.
Ogletree’s journey to success was an inspiring one, as he overcame poverty that stemmed from being the son of tenant farmers in California. Rising above his humble beginnings, he went on to become one of the most prominent civil rights lawyers in the United States, leaving an indelible mark on the legal system.
Known for his unwavering commitment to justice, Ogletree took on high-profile cases that highlighted systemic injustice. He provided legal representation to notable figures such as the late Tupac Shakur and played a crucial role in assisting the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. In 2003, Ogletree’s efforts led to a landmark lawsuit against the city and state of Oklahoma, seeking restitution for the survivors of this horrific event.
The passing of Charles J. Ogletree Jr. leaves a significant void in the world of law and civil rights advocacy. The legacy he leaves behind will continue to inspire future generations of lawyers and activists to fight for justice and equality. While his physical presence may be gone, his contributions and impact will undoubtedly endure for years to come.