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The Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies
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Future Plans: New Film Projects

"Donald L. Hollowell: Twentieth Century Freedom Fighter"

This documentary will chronicle the rich historical role and numerous contributions of attorney Donald L. Hollowell during the civil rights movement. Although Hollowell's achievements have not been widely publicized and little documentation exists of his civil rights work, an examination of his accomplishments in a variety of legal cases reveals that he was a pivotal figure in many of the key battles for civil rights.

Mr. Hollowell was the chief architect of the legal work that won the landmark 1961 Holmes v. Danner case, which opened the doors of the University of Georgia to two black students, Hamilton Holmes, Sr. and Charlayne Hunter, for the first time. In addition to this historic case, Hollowell’s legal work and civil rights advocacy helped to advance many other civil rights causes, including access to public education, public accommodations, voting rights, and the right of blacks to serve on juries. Mr. Hollowell recently turned 85 and still maintains his fervor for equal justice.

Born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, Donald Hollowell did not encounter the Jim Crow restrictions of the South, but faced blatant racism and discrimination while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. Hollowell’s experiences with segregation and discrimination in the Army and his subsequent involvement with the Southern Negro Youth Conference after the war inspired him to pursue the study of law to help in the fight for social justice.

Hollowell graduated magna cum laude from Tennessee’s Lane College in 1947 and earned his law degree from Loyola University in Chicago in 1951. In 1952, he established a law practice in Atlanta, Georgia, and began to play a major role in the burgeoning civil rights struggle. In 1955, Hollowell became chief counsel for Horace T. Ward in the Ward v. Regents case that challenged segregation at the University of Georgia School of Law. In 1959, he helped civil rights plaintiffs prevail in a federal district court case (Hunt v. Arnold) against the Georgia State College of Business (now Georgia State University). In 1961, he served as chief counsel to Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter in the landmark Holmes v. Danner case.

The documentary will explore Hollowell's masterful legal work in the Ward, Hunt, and Holmes cases, and his litigation of several far-reaching civil rights cases in various state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court of Georgia and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (now Eleventh Circuit). For example, in King v. State of Georgia (1960), Hollowell won a victory in the Georgia Court of Appeals and secured the release of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Reidsville State Prison. In a 1962 case, Hollowell prevented the electrocution of Preston Cobb, a 15-year-old black youth from Monticello, Georgia, five days before his scheduled execution.

Hollowell defended Dr. King and hundreds of civil rights activists in the historic Albany Movement (the Albany, Georgia civil rights campaign). Hollowell was also chief counsel in historic cases that enabled blacks to ride desegregated buses, in the Atlanta sit-in cases that opened up public facilities, and in numerous other precedent-setting civil rights cases. These victories represent but a small part of Hollowell’s contributions to the civil rights movement.

The documentary will help illuminate the contributions of one of the foremost, yet still unsung, twentieth-century freedom fighters, who dedicated his life to the principle of equality and the advancement of social reform.

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