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SCHR Mourns the Passing of Charles Ogletree

SCHR Mourns the Passing of Charles Ogletree

The Board and Staff of the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) mourn the passing of former SCHR Board Member, Harvard Law Professor, and public defender, Charles Ogletree.

Affectionately known as “Tree,” Charles Ogletree was a lot of things, including an exceptional legal scholar, a fierce and fearless advocate, a mentor to some of this country’s greatest justice champions, and a shield against racial injustice in all its many forms. Most importantly for all of us at SCHR, he was our friend.

After leaving his trailblazing career as a public defender at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, Charles Ogletree joined Harvard Law’s faculty. He could have left criminal defense and the racial justice approach he infused into it in his past. But he didn’t. Rather, he joined his former PDS colleague, former SCHR President Stephen B. Bright, in appearing before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a Black man prosecuted by a district attorney who struck 90% of prospective Black jurors. Charles Ogletree’s extraordinary advocacy led to the reversal of the death sentence in Ford v. Georgia. But his work in the South did not end there. He strongly believed in SCHR and was one of our most dedicated supporters. Having served as Chair of SCHR’s board of directors for a decade, he poured countless hours into being a loud cheerleader for SCHR’s mission, our team, and the people we serve.

We will miss his brilliance, strength, and camaraderie, as we comfort ourselves knowing that he gave his best to the cause of justice and his was a life well-lived. We were privileged to have been gifted with Tree’s love, and we will hold those memories closely always. Our thoughts are with his family and all who knew and loved him.