Alexander Pierre Tureaud was born in 1899 in New Orleans. According to
the Tureaud.com website, he grew up in the Faubourg Marigny at 907 Kerlerec
Street which is one block below Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans. In 1925,
he received his law degree from Howard University. Shortly thereafter, he
returned to New Orleans where he served as attorney for the local NAACP.
He initiated the establishment of a number of civic and voter leagues and
urged African-Americans to register to vote despite the poll taxes, discriminatory
tests, and other barriers.
Throughout the thirties and forties, Tureaud’s efforts touched and
bettered the lives of many Louisianans. In 1941 in McKelpin v. the Board
of Education, he won equal pay rights for Black teachers in Orleans
Parish who were being paid less than White teachers. In 1946, he emerged
victorious in a voter registration suit on behalf of Edward Hall and residents
of St. John the Baptist Parish. In 1946, he led an investigation into the
lynching of World War II veteran John C. Jones in Minden, La., and turned
over the names of the attackers to the United States government. He also
fought for the right of African-Americans to picnic in City Park, use the
municipal auditorium, and obtain admission to the Louisiana State University’s
Tureaud was a scholarly man. In 1935, he coauthored The Negro in Medicine
in Louisiana with Dr. C. C. Haydel. He also saved artifacts of historical
value. In his collection at the Amistad Research Center are old Crusaders,
and reports of the Citizen’s Committee. He was familiar with Louis
A. Martinet and the Citizens Committee that engineered the Plessy v. Ferguson
case. Indeed, finishing what Martinet started was Tureaud’s life’s
work. In 1949, in Bush v. Board of Education, Tureaud initiated legal action
that eventually led to the desegregation of New Orleans’ school system.
In 1957, he founded the Martinet Society. It was composed of a group of
young Black lawyers who gathered in law offices on Orleans Ave. Over sandwiches,
coffee, and soft drinks they discussed legal cases, politics, and made
extensive use of Tureaud’s library and experiences.
Judge Revius Ortique recalled the early days of the Society:
“There were a number of us who came into the practice
between 1950 and 1956. In that number were young lawyers with limited assets.
Over the years, A. P. Tureaud gathered a lot of law material. A number
of us gathered in his office on evenings and the weekend. He was happy
to have us. He was considered our dean. Before long we began discussing
various cases we were having. Even though we didn’t call ourselves
a society, we were in fact a learned society, learning from him as the
dean of lawyers in Louisiana. It was he who suggested we have this organization
and call it the Louis A. Martinet Society.” 1
Tureaud was elected president. The statewide organization was called the
Louis A. Martinet Society of Louisiana. Among its stated objectives were
the interchange of ideas, legal scholarship, and promoting the administration
of justice. Its early members included Ernest Morial, Bob Collins, Lionel
Collins, Freddie Warren, and Israel Augustine. Benjamin Johnson was recording
secretary and Earl Amedee was treasurer.
For the young lawyers, the Society provided them with access to the community
and the golden opportunity to be part of the emerging civil rights movements.
Since Tureaud’s efforts were linked to a national effort, Martinet
society members watched the national civil rights movement unfold. They also
met the great Civil Rights attorneys such as Thurgood Marshall and Bob Carter.
Tureaud stayed active during the sixties. He represented Reverend A.L.
Davis in a lawsuit to integrate the buses. He also sued for integration of
the New Orleans airport’s restaurant. In addition, he defended three
students arrested in Baton Rouge for sit-ins. He won the judgment that desegregated
Nicholls State College. In 1965, he represented a White woman seeking to
enter all-Black Grambling University. And in 1969, Tureaud forced the state
to provide reading materials on Afro-American history in the case of Dana
Hubbard v. Fred Tannehill.
A.P. Tureaud died in 1972, but left a legacy of legal eagles. His former
students rose to the top echelons of their profession. Revius Ortique became
a civil court judge and has received four presidential appointments. Israel
Augustine became the first Black post-Reconstruction state judge. Similarly,
Robert Collins was appointed to the federal bench. Ernest Morial became the
city’s first Black mayor. One of Mayor Morial’s first projects
was to rename London Avenue to A. P. Tureaud Avenue in honor of the great
Civil Rights lawyer. Tureaud’s papers and a bust are housed at the
Amistad Research Center on Tulane’s campus. At the corner of A. P.
Tureaud and St. Bernard Avenue, a civil rights sculpture of Tureaud opening
the gates of opportunity stands at the entrance of A. P. Tureaud Avenue.
1 Medley, Keith Weldon:
Interview with Judge Revius Ortique
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