Loyola University Chicago

School of Law

Who is Norman Amaker?

The Norman Amaker Public Interest Law and Social Justice Retreat is named in honor of the late Professor Norman Amaker of Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

Norman Amaker was born in New York City in 1935 and earned his B.A. degree cum laude in 1956 from Amherst College.  He earned his J.D. degree in 1959 at Columbia University Law School.

After his graduation from law school, Amaker was hired by Thurgood Marshall (later to be Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) to work for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.  He spent a decade there, serving both as staff attorney and as first assistant counsel.

This was the 1960's - the decade of the civil rights movement.  During this period of time, Amaker was a lawyer for the plaintiffs in numerous civil rights cases challenging racial discrimination in public schools, public accommodations, jury selection, voting, capital punishment, and employment.  He represented thousands of protest demonstrators across the South, including the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama, and he argued scores of cases before federal and state trial and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.  As a footnote to history, Amaker served as the brave courier who brought out to the world Dr. King's famous essay on law and justice: "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."  In 1971 he became Executive Director of Neighborhood Legal Services Program in Washington, D.C., and as general counsel for the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing.  Always finding joy in teaching and mentoring those around him, he gravitated into law teaching, becoming a Professor of Law at Rutgers University in New Jersey in 1973.

Professor Amaker joined the law faculty at Loyola University Chicago in 1976, where he taught until his untimely death in January 2000.  He taught courses in the areas of civil rights, civil procedure, federal jurisdiction, and constitutional law.  He published extensively in the civil rights area.  He was the author of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights (revised edition, 1967) and the widely-read Civil Rights and the Reagan Administration (1988), as well as several law review articles.

Professor Amaker joined Professor Linda Greene of the University of Wisconsin to co-found the Midwestern People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference, which first met in 1990 and continues to meet annually to critique scholarship generated by professors of color at Midwestern law schools.  Legal scholars in other regions of the country subsequently organized similar scholarship conferences.

Professor Amaker's memory has been honored by several organizations.  The Midwestern People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference which he co-founded has named an award after him; the noted scholar Professor Derrick Bell, visiting professor of law at New York University School of Law, was the first recipinet of the Norman Amaker Aawrd in October 2003.  In addition, the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) has named its annual Midwest Public Interest Law Retreat after Professor Amaker.

Professor Amaker never failed to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with whom he shared a birthday (January 15) and with whom he had worked in the struggle for civil rights.  Professor Amaker was instrumental in establishing the law school's annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture Series in 1986, the year that Dr. King's birthday became became a national holiday.  Professor Amaker delivered the first lecture in that series, entitled "Martin Luther King, The Law, and Lawyers."  In 1993, Professor Amaker again delivered the King lecture, speaking on "If Martin Luther King, Jr. Were Alive... (What Would Martin Say?)."  In 2001, Professor Drew S. Days III, former Solicitor General of the United States and a personal colleague, used the King lecture to deliver a Memorial Service for Professor Amaker.

After his death, Professor Amaker was honored by the City of Chicago: Mayor Richard M. Daley proclaimed January 15, 2001 to be Norman C. Amaker Day.  The House of Representatives of the State of Illinois issued a proclamation on his behalf.

Photos, from top:

Professor Norman C Amaker at Loyola University Chicago School of Law;

Professors Amaker (left) and Neil G. Williams (right) welcomed Donald L. Hollowell (JD '51) when he delivered the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture in 1992;

Professor Amaker engaged in a spirited discussion with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia upon the Justice's visit to Loyola in 1997.