Honorary Degrees
1918 - Present

John Minor Wisdom 
Doctor of Laws  1994
Status: conferred

After earning a law degree from Tulane University in 1929, John Minor Wisdom practiced law in New Orleans until appointment in 1957 to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He is a respected jurist whose opinions have helped define civil rights law across the country. His contributions include a number of significant decisions, including suspending a state voters' registration law; desegregating the University of Mississippi; ordering affirmative action to desegregate public schools; desegregating bus and railroad terminals; and prohibiting the awarding of jobs based on seniority systems with built-in race discrimination. The Supreme Court upheld his dissenting opinion in Dombrowski v. Pfister (1965), enjoining the state of Louisiana from using its powers to harass civil rights leaders through unwarranted prosecution. Throughout his career on the federal bench as well as teaching courses in law at Tulane and other universities, Judge Wisdom has educated and encouraged a generation of lawyers to lead the United States toward the ideals embodied in the Constitution. Time magazine said of Judge Wisdom, "He is equally at home in archaeology, Greek tragedy, and Louisiana civil law. . . .He is one of the best and most painstaking opinion writers on any U.S. bench." For his many and varied contributions to the judiciary and for a long and distinguished career on the bench, Southern Methodist University is honored to confer upon John Minor Wisdom the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.