Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing leading participants in or well-placed witnesses to major events in the development of Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral history is a method of collecting historical information through tape-recorded interviews between a narrator with firsthand knowledge of historically significant events and a well-informed interviewer, with the goal of preserving substantive additions to the historical record. The tape recording is transcribed, lightly edited for continuity and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. The corrected manuscript is indexed, bound with photographs and illustrative materials, and placed in The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and in other research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material, oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete narrative of events. It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee in response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, and irreplaceable.
All uses of this manuscript are covered by two legal agreements between The Regents of the University of California and Allen E. Broussard dated January 29, 1992, and February 1, 1996. The manuscript is thereby made available for research purposes. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to The Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley.
Requests for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720, and should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. The legal agreements with Allen E. Broussard require that he be notified of the request and allowed thirty days in which to respond.
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Allen E. Broussard, A California Supreme Court Justice Looks at Law and Society, 1964-1996, an interview conducted in 1991, 1992, 1995, and 1996 by Gabrielle Morris, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1997.
Allen E. Broussard (1929-1996) Judge A Calfornia Supreme Court Justice Looks at Law and Society, 1964-1996, xii, 257 pp., 1997.
Interviewed for the University of California Black Alumni Project in 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996 by Gabrielle Morris
Boyhood in Louisiana; education at San Francisco City College, UC Berkeley, Boalt Hall (1950-1953), influence of Jacobus tenBroek; practising law; community activities: NAACP, Oakland Men of Tomorrow, Democratic party, East Bay Community Foundation; Bay Area African American political leaders; service on Oakland Municipal Court (1964-1975), Alameda County Superior Court (1975-1981), California Supreme Court (1984-1991), observations on fellow judges; work with Advisory Committee on Race and Gender in the California Courts (1991-1996), other judicial administrative bodies; as board member, Port of Oakland (1991-1996).
With an introduction by Carl B. Metoyer, former law partner
The Regional Oral Hisotry Office wishes to express its thanks to the following individuals and organizations whose encouragement and support have made possible the University of California Black Alumni Series
Robert Beck, in memory of Catherine Harroun
Black Alumni Club, University of California
Boalt Hall School of Law Alumni Association
California Judges Association
Ruth C. Chance
Chancellor's Office, University of California, Berkeley
Coblentz, Cahen, McCabe & Breyer
W. R. Willis, Jr.
Morley S. and Patricia Farquar
William Alexander Gerbode Foundation
Dr. and Mrs. Marvin Poston
Mary and Norvel Smith
Morris Stulsaft Foundation
Ruth Teiser, in memory of James T. Abajian
Ernst D. and Eleanor Slate Van Loben Sels Charitable Foundation
In America, education has long been an important avenue of opportunity. From our earliest years young people and their families have looked to the nation's colleges and universities to provide the knowledge and experience that will enable the new generation to take its place in the world of work and government and creative activity. In turn, one measure of the quality of American universities and colleges is the breadth and diversity of their students, including how well they reflect the mix of social, racial, and economic backgrounds that make up the communities from which they come and in which they will take part as graduates.
On the West Coast, the University of California at Berkeley has from its beginnings in the 1860s welcomed the sons and daughters of small farmers and shopkeepers, railroad workers and laborers, as well as the children of lawyers and doctors, corporate executives, from many ethnic and racial groups. By 1900, the first black students had enrolled at Berkeley, pioneers of yet another group of Americans eager to seek the best in higher education and to broaden their participation in the life of California and the nation.
Those first black students to come to Cal were indeed on their own, with few fellow black students and no special programs or black faculty to guide them or serve as role models. During the Great Depression of the 1930s a few more came, maybe a hundred at a time in all. The education benefits of the G.I. Bill for men and women who did military service during World War II opened the doors to many more black students to attend Cal in the late 1940s and early 1950s. A census taken in 1966 counted 226 black students, 1.02 percent of all the students at Berkeley. By the fall of 1988, there were 1,944 black graduate and undergraduate students, 6.1 percent of the student body. With changing population and immigration patterns in recent years, as well as active campus recruiting programs, for the first time there is not a single majority ethnic group in the entire undergraduate student body at Berkeley.
Looking back from the 1990s, those early trailblazers are very special. Though few in number, a large percentage of them have gone on to distinguished careers. They have made significant contributions in economics, education, medicine, government, community service, and other fields. It is fitting that a record of their initiative and energy be preserved in their own accounts of their expectations of the University of California, their experiences as students there, and how these experiences shaped their later lives. Their stories are a rich part of the history of the University.
Since 1970, the University has sought to gather information on this remarkable group of students, as noted in the following list of oral histories. In 1983, the UC Black Alumni Club and University officials began planning an organized project to document the lives and accomplishments of its black graduates. In order to provide scholars access to the widest possible array of data the present series includes oral histories conducted for Regional Oral History Office projects on California Government History Documentation and the History of Bay Area Philanthropy, funded by various donors.
With the advice and assistance of the Black Alumni Club, the Chancellor's Office, and the support of other alumni and friends of the University, the Regional Oral History Office of The Bancroft Library is tape-recording and publishing interviews with representative black alumni who attended Cal between the years 1920 and 1956. As a group, these oral histories contain research data not previously available about black pioneers in higher education. As individuals, their stories offer inspiration to young people who may now be thinking of entering the University.
Material from the series has been used in numerous campus outreach programs to Bay Area schools and community organizations. Abstracts of the interviews appear in Head of the Class, An Oral History of African-American Achievement in Higher Education and Beyond (Twayne, 1995). Most recently, the East Bay Community Foundation has underwritten extensive distribution to East Bay libraries of selections from the oral histories in soft-cover format.
The Regional Oral History Office was established in 1954 to tape record autobiographical interviews with persons significant in the history of California and the West. The Office is under the administrative direction of The Bancroft Library and Willa Baum, Division Head. Copies of all interviews in the series are available for research use in The Bancroft Library and UCLA Department of Special Collections. Selected interviews are also available at other manuscript depositories.
Gabrielle Morris, Director University of California Black Alumni Project Willa K. Baum, Division Head Regional Oral History Office February 1997
Regional Oral History Office
University of California Black Alumni Series
Interviews completed as of March 1997
Allen E. Broussard, A California Supreme Court Justice Looks at Law and Society, 1964-1996, 1997.+
Lloyd Noel Ferguson, Increasing Opportunities in Chemistry, 1936-1986, 1992.
Walter Gordon, Athlete, Officer in Law Enforcement and Administration, Governor of the Virgin Islands, 1980.*
Ida Jackson, Overcoming Barriers in Education, 1990+.
John Miller, “Issues of Criminal Justice and Black Politics in California” , in Legislative Issue Management and Advocacy, 1961-1974, 1983.*
Charles Patterson, Working for Civic Unity in Government, Business, and Philanthropy, 1994.*
Tarea Hall Pittman, NAACP Official and Civil Rights Worker, 1974.+*
Marvin Poston, Making Opportunities in Vision Care, 1989.+
Emmett J. Rice, Education of an Economist: From Fulbright Scholar to the Federal Reserve Board, 1951-1979, 1991.+
William Byron Rumford, Legislator for Fair Employment, Fair Housing, and Public Health, 1973.*
Archie Williams, The Joy of Flying: Olympic Gold, Air Force Colonel, and Teacher, 1993.
Lionel Wilson, Attorney, Judge, and Oakland Mayor, 1992.
+Also available in abridged form in the Black Pioneers at the University: 1920-1956 pamphlet series.
*Interviews conducted for other Regional Oral History Office projects, funded by various donors.
Introduction by Carl B. Metoyer
To Odessa, Craig, Keith, Mother Broussard, James, Rita, and the other member of Al's family: I extend my heartfelt sympathy in your loss of Al, a devoted husband, father, son, brother, and friend.
Knowing Al as we all did, I am sure that he would want us to gather today to celebrate his wonderful, productive life--not to grieve his death.
Al and I go back nearly fifty years to the day when we first met on the bridge at UC Berkeley's Sather Gate. At the time, we were both undergraduate students at Berkeley, pursuing prelegal studies. I went on to study law at Hastings College of the Law, and Al entered and graduated from Boalt Hall.
Al and I saw little of each other from 1949 until 1957 when we both started practicing law in Oakland. In 1958, Al, Lionel Wilson, Wilmont Sweeney, and I began to explore the possibility of joining our individual practices to form a law firm. In 1959, we decided to combine our practices into a law firm, purchased a lot at 60th and Market Streets in Oakland, built a new office building in which to house our practice, and we were off to the races.
Our new firm was known as Wilson, Metoyer & Sweeney, and we set out to provide the community with excellent legal services at an affordable cost.
In addition to practicing law, and participating in legal organizations, all of us were active in community and political affairs. Three of the organizations to which Al devoted substantial time were the 17th Assembly District Democratic Club, the Men of Tomorrow, and the Charles Houston Law Club. Al's contributions to these organizations--which then were in their infancy--were critical to their development as forces for change within the Bay Area.
Let me remind you that in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there were only a handful of black attorneys in the Bay Area, and we were not fully accepted within the legal and general community as competent legal practitioners. One of our firm's primary goals was to demonstrate to all that we were capable of performing any legal or judicial task which we undertook or to which we aspired.
In 1960--just as we were developing a head of steam--Lionel Wilson was appointed judge of the Oakland Municipal Court, and we had to seek out a replacement for him. At that time, Al became a full partner, and we hired an associate attorney.
Lest you should think that Al was all work and no play, let me assure you that in his youth, as in his more mature years, he loved to party, was an excellent dancer, played a tough game of table tennis from either the right or left side, and, as many of us know from being the brunt of his jokes, loved to play practical jokes on unsuspecting targets.
By 1964, the firm's practice had grown to the point where we were contemplating taking on a second associate. Suddenly, Al received that fateful call from the governor beckoning him to the municipal court, and the rest is history.
Al, I missed you then, and I shall miss you now.
Carl B. Metoyer
(A former law partner, Mr. Metoyer's remarks were delivered at Justice Broussard's funeral on November 9, 1996.)
Interview History--Allen Broussard
This oral history of Allen Broussard (1929-1996) adds greatly to understanding of the accomplishments of African American graduates of the University of California, of which he is a distinguished alumnus. His narrative documents the dedicated work as a citizen and as an attorney on behalf of fairness and justice that led to his appointment to the bench, where he came to have considerable impact on the affairs of California. "Judge Broussard's wise guidance," said President Clinton at a Western Center on Law and Poverty gathering in 1994, "has infused the state supreme court with both intelligence and compassion."
A dapper person of medium size with a friendly, humorous manner, Broussard addressed the interviewer's questions, based on an outline of topics sent to him prior to the recording sessions, thoughtfully. His answers reconstructed a hardworking life that was deeply involved in many critical issues of the 20th century.
From a boyhood in segregated Louisiana, Broussard came to San Francisco with his family as a teenager in the 1940s at the urging of an older brother. In 1950 he graduated high in his class at the University of California at Berkeley and in 1953 from its school of law. He immersed himself in the NAACP, Men of Tomorrow, and other organizations working for the betterment of black men and women in the Oakland Bay Area.
His narrative touches on friendships with Byron Rumford, Lionel Wilson, Elihu Harris, and other leaders with whom he forged the political base that brought Oakland significant governmental economic development programs and elected African American legislators and mayors in a period when other cities its size were experiencing racial unrest.
While still in his thirties, Broussard was tapped by Governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown, Sr. for the Alameda County Municipal Court in 1964 and, in 1975, for the superior court, where he developed an interest in working to improve court administration and judicial education. As he liked to relate with a chuckle, Broussard became a Triple Brownie in 1981 when Governor Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown, Jr. named him to the state supreme court, notable at the time for the diversity of its members and independence of its decisions. As a member of Chief Justice Rose Bird's court, Broussard wrote the majority opinion on many significant cases.
When Bird left the court after her 1986 election defeat, she appointed Broussard acting chief justice. From 1987 to 1991, he served with Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas, who named Broussard co-chair of the distinguished Advisory Committee on Race and Gender in the Courts. In its work, the committee sought to ensure not only that the courts would be fair in their work but that they would be perceived as fair. "As a judge, I was involved in matters bearing on equal treatment for our diverse population," he states in his oral history, "And I spoke out on these issues."
Many times in court and other judicial activities, Broussard notes, "I was aware that many judges were seeing or working with a Black judge for the first time in their lives." A person of conciliation rather than confrontation, he saw these encounters as opportunities "to set an example for a lot of people" and to suggest that "the court is well-served by having people who have different experiences and views in its membership so that they can have an impact on each other's thinking and conclusions."
Broussard left the court in 1991 to return to the practice of law. While on the first cruise he and his wife, Odessa, had ever had time to take, he was appointed to the Port of Oakland board of directors, a major real estate, transportation, and economic development engine for the Bay Area.
Taking up full-time duties as a member of the noted San Francisco firm of Coblenz, Cahen, McCabe & Breyer, he relinquished his status as a judge and embarked on the newly popular private practice of mediation. Carrying this load plus numerous civic obligations proved too much for the energetic and generous Broussard. He died in November 1996 after a brief illness, following surgery the previous year.
There was a rich outpouring of affection and admiration at the community memorial service in his honor at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. Speaker after speaker mentioned Justice Broussard's love of parties and practical jokes as well as his deep understanding of the intricacies of the law and its integral relation to the complexities of the society it serves. Remarks by one of the speakers, Broussard's former law partner Charles Metoyer, are included in the volume as introductions.
"He was a great role model" for people of all ages and ethnicity commented William Rodarmor in the California Monthly, reporting on Broussard being named the Alumni Association's Alumnus of the Year in 1992.
The quality of his personality and his impact on those who knew and worked with him are perhaps best summed up in Broussard's own words eulogizing Wiley Manuel, a close friend who preceded him on the state supreme court. He "refused to allow himself to be victimized by race, poverty, or any other adversity, and he persistently refused to tolerate or to participate in victimization of any other person for any reason... realize and remember that his life was a great gift to all of us."
Broussard's oral history was recorded in six sessions. The first two were taped in June 1991 in his chambers San Francisco's Civic Center and focussed on his early years. The next two sessions dealt with his years on the municipal and superior court and his appointment to the supreme court; these interviews were conducted in January of 1992 in temporary quarters in the Marathon Plaza building on Folsom Street while the courts building was being remodeled. When the justice finally had time to review the transcript of these four sessions in 1995, he suggested a further interview to consider matters subsequent to his retirement. This grew into two sessions, which are a valuable addition to the volume and reflect on Broussard's years as a judge as well as on his work with the Advisory Committee on Race and Gender in the Courts and other of his many pro bono activities.
Broussard made minor revisions and factual corrections in the transcript of the interviews, which did not change the sense of the text. He also provided a summary listing of decisions he wrote while a member of the supreme court, which is included in the appendix.
Associated Press legal affairs writer Bob Egelko provided helpful background information for planning of the interviews, which is much appreciated. The Oakland Tribune library was also a valuable resource for dates and other details. And special thanks are due to the justice's assistants, Janet Ellenberg at the supreme court and Ginnie Chan in his law office, for their friendly assistance in scheduling and rescheduling appointments, supplying documents, and tracking the progress of the interview manuscript. Photographs and additional appendix materials were provided by William Rodarmor from the files of the California Monthly.
Gabrielle Morris, Interviewer/Editor, Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
Biographical Information--Allen Broussard
ALLEN E. BROUSSARD
South Tower, Ninth
Nominated as an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., on June 25, 1981; confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments on July 17, 1981; oath of office July 22, 1981. Elected to a twelve- year term in a statewide election on November 2, 1982.
Formerly Judge of the Superior Court
County of Alameda
Appointed to the Alameda County Superior Court by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., on October 1, 1975. Elected Presiding Judge of the Alameda County Superior Court for the year 1980. Re-elected for the year 1981 and served as Presiding Judge until appointment to the California Supreme Court in June 1981.
Formerly Judge of the Oakland-Piedmont Municipal Court
600 Washington Street
Appointed to the Oakland-Piedmont Municipal Court by Governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown, Sr. in March 1964. Served as Presiding Judge in 1968.
Served as a Justice Pro Tempore on the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, in August and September 1977.
Resides in Oakland, California. Born April 13, 1929, Lake Charles, Louisiana. Came to California in 1945, residing first in San Francisco, then Berkeley and now Oakland. Married to Odessa. Have two sons, Craig and Keith. Member of Saint Paschal's Catholic Church.
Military Service :
Formerly a Member of the Board of Directors of the following community and civic organizations:
Formerly a Member of the Board of Directors of the following professional organizations:
Activity with the California Judges Association, the state-wide organization of California judges:
Listed in Who's Who in the West and in Who's Who in American Law
Addendum to Résuméof Allen E. Broussard