Virginia Changemakers
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Samuel W. Tucker (1913 - 1990)

2022_SMW_SamuelTucker_ (AlexandriaMus).jpg




Civil Rights Attorney


Alexandria native Samuel Wilbert Tucker (June 18, 1913−October 19, 1990) read law with a local attorney after earning a B.A. from Howard University in 1933, and was admitted to the Virginia bar a year later. In August 1939 he organized at the Alexandria Public Library one of the earliest sit-ins in the struggle for equal rights. He filed a lawsuit to end segregation there, but the city built a separate library for African Americans instead. After serving as a major with a segregated unit during World War II, Tucker relocated to Emporia, where he opened a law practice. By the mid-1960s he was a partner in the Richmond law firm of Hill, Tucker, and Marsh, which specialized in civil rights cases. As the Virginia NAACP's (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) lead attorney for decades, Tucker tried scores of discrimination and segregation cases related to schools, teacher pay, and jury selection before local, state, and federal courts.

Tucker sat on legal teams that litigated to reopen Prince Edward County's public schools when they closed rather than desegregate after Brown v. Board of Education (1954), as well as to end tuition subsidies for white students to attend private academies. He argued the landmark case Green v. New Kent County School Board, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1968 that local school boards must immediately implement desegregation strategies. Tucker's continual battles for equal justice led to an unsuccessful attempt by white lawyers to disbar him early in the 1960s. He later received many accolades for his work, including a lifetime service award from the Virginia Commission on Women and Minorities in the Legal System.

2022 Strong Men & Women in Virginia History honoree, Library of Virginia and Dominion Energy.

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Photograph courtesy of Alexandria Black History Museum.