Noah Parden | The Majesty of the Law | Part 4


This week, Mark Curriden relays more of the historic, the miraculous, and the tragic turn of events of the 1906 saga of Ed Johnson.


Guest Bio:

Mark Curriden Mark Curriden is a lawyer/journalist and founder of The Texas Lawbook. In addition, he is a contributing legal correspondent for The Houston Chronicle and the Dallas Business Journal.

Mark is the author of the best selling book Contempt of Court: A Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism. The book received the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award and numerous other honors. He also is a frequent lecturer at bar associations, law firm retreats, judicial conferences, and other events. His CLE presentations have been approved for ethics credit in nearly every state.

For the past 25 years, Mark has been a senior contributing writer for the ABA Journal, which is the nation’s largest legal publication. His articles have been on the cover of the magazine more than a dozen times. He has received scores of honors for his legal writing, including the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, the American Judicature Society’s Toni House Award, the American Trial Lawyer’s Amicus Award, and the Chicago Press Club’s Headliner

Mark’s book, Contempt of Court, tells the story of Ed Johnson, a young black man from Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1906. Johnson was falsely accused of rape, railroaded through the criminal justice system, found guilty and sentenced to death – all in three weeks. Two African-American lawyers stepped forward to represent Johnson on appeal. In doing so, they filed one of the first federal habeas petitions ever attempted in a state criminal case. The lawyers convinced the Supreme Court of the United States to stay Johnson’s execution. But before they could have him released, a lynch mob, aided by the sheriff and his deputies, lynched Johnson. Angered, the Supreme Court ordered the arrest of the sheriff and leaders of the mob, charging them with contempt of the Supreme Court. It is the only time in U.S. history that the Supreme Court conducted a criminal trial.


Noah Walter Parden (c. 1868 – February 23, 1944) was an American attorney and politician who was active in Chattanooga, Tennessee, East St. Louis, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri between 1891 and 1940. In 1906 he became one of the first African-American attorneys to serve as lead counsel in a case before the United States Supreme Court, and he was among the first to make an oral argument before the Court. In 1935 he became the first African American to be appointed to the position of Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, a public office, in St. Louis.


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