George Barrett, Geier Consent Decree Attorney Passes

 

 

George Barrett grew up in east Nashville and was a member of Vanderbilt's legendary law class of 1957 that produced some of the city's greatest legal achievers.

Photo Credit from Channel 4 News

George Barrett, a longtime Tennessee civil rights lawyer known for handling a case that ultimately desegregated the state’s public colleges and universities, has died. He was 86.

Barrett died Tuesday at a hospital, several partners of his Nashville-based law firm told The Associated Press.

In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Barrett also represented corporate whistleblowers, fought for labor rights and tackled securities fraud, his partners said.

He is perhaps best known as the attorney who filed a lawsuit in 1968 for then-Tennessee State University instructor Rita Geier, who accused the state of operating a dual system of higher education for minorities.

Geier, then 23, filed the lawsuit over the University of Tennessee’s plans to develop a Nashville campus. She feared it would become a predominantly white school and that historically black Tennessee State would suffer. The case dragged on for 38 years, and the state ultimately agreed to provide millions of dollars to diversify public colleges and universities.

 

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