Charter Day 2004
Honorary Degree Recipients

Click on the recipient's name to view their biography.

Ossie Davis

Julian R. Dugas, Esq.

Charles T. Duncan, Esq.

The Honorable Frankie M. Freeman

Jack Greenberg, Esq.

Oliver W. Hill, Sr., Esq.

Charles Hamilton Houston, Sr., Esq. 

Click on the recipient's name  to view their biography.


Julian R. Dugas has been an active participant in the legal and political arena of the nation’s capital for over forty years. He was born on June 1, 1918 in Greenwood, South Carolina, and was reared in Augusta, Georgia.  He served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 until 1945.  After receiving the B.S. degree in 1940 from South Carolina State A & M College, and his J.D. degree in 1949 from Howard University School of Law, he was admitted to the Bar of the District of Columbia in 1950.  

             Dugas served as Special Assistant to the President of Howard University from February 1979 to December 1986.  He has also served as:  First City Administrator of the District of Columbia; Chairman, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board; General Assistant to the Mayor of the District of Columbia; Partner, Law Firm of Cobb, Howard, Hayes, Windsor & Dugas; Assistant Corporation Counsel, Office of the Corporation Counsel, Washington, DC; and Adjunct Professor of Law, Howard University School of Law since 1964. He was a leader in the District's Home Rule Campaign and the early years of self-government. He was the founding director of the Neighborhood Legal Services program for the District of Columbia. After many years in private practice, Dugas, now 85, continues to teach trial advocacy, his favorite course, at Howard University School of Law.

In the D.C. school desegregation case, Bolling v. Sharpe, a companion case to Brown v. Board of Education, Dugas is listed as of counsel. He said, "I had come out of a rather sheltered and protected society in the South. My family was engaged in business, and I had been drafted into the Navy. . . . I had hopes of being a singer, but while in the Philippines, I wrote my wife and said, I've changed my mind. I want to go to law school because I want to find out how they can do what they're doing to us” [as citizens serving our country].

He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Council for Court Excellence, and a consultant and legal counsel to Bibleway Temple Church, Washington, DC.  He is a member of the DePriest Fifteen and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

He has been married to Thelma Chisholm for over 60 years, and they have four sons.


Charles T. Duncan was born in Washington, D.C., on October 31, 1924, the only child of Gladys Jackson Duncan, a public school teacher, and the late Dr. Charles Tignor.  His stepfather is the late Todd Duncan, world renowned opera singer-baritone famous for his portrayal of Porgy in George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and for “breaking the color barrier” in American opera. After starting his education in the D.C. public school system, Duncan entered Mount Hermon Preparatory School for Boys in the tenth grade. After graduation, he went on to Dartmouth College, where he graduated cum laude in 1947, having also concurrently served in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1945 to 1946. He went on to study law at Harvard Law School, graduating in 1950.

Duncan began his legal practice in New York, but by 1953 he had moved back to Washington, D.C., to partner and practice in the law firm of Reeves, Robinson & Duncan.  He worked on the second brief presented to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Brown v. Board of Education.  Duncan was also a lecturer at Howard University School of Law between 1954 and 1960. In 1961, he became the principal assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and in 1965, he was appointed the first general counsel of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He later went to work for the District of Columbia as corporation counsel, where he oversaw all legal affairs of the District and was second in line to the mayor. Duncan returned to private practice in 1970 with the firm of Epstein, Friedman, Duncan & Medalie.

In 1974, Duncan became dean of the Howard University School of Law, and served until 1977. He continued to teach for another year before returning to private practice in 1978.  By 1984, he had joined the firm of Reid & Priest as a partner, serving as senior counsel from 1990 to 1994. Appointed by the Secretary of State to the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in 1994, he lived and served in Hague, Netherlands until 2000. Duncan now serves as a senior trustee for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

            On the board of directors of several companies, including Proctor & Gamble and Eastman Kodak, he is a former trustee of the Supreme Court Historical Society, and has also served on the boards of the Washington Urban League and the Columbia Hospital for Women. Duncan has one son, Todd with his late wife, Dorothy. He and his wife Pamela reside in Maryland.



Frankie Muse Freeman was born on November 24, 1916 in Danville, Virginia.  She attended Hampton University and received a J.D. degree from Howard University School of Law.  She has been engaged in the practice of law since June 1949. 

 Dr. Freeman is an outstanding attorney, civil rights reformer, and has held several Presidential appointments under four Presidents.  President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated her as the first woman to serve as a Commissioner of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.  Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter subsequently reappointed her.  She served as a Commissioner for sixteen years, and later as Inspector General for the Community Services Administration during the Carter Administration.  President Carter, in thanking her for her service to the Civil Rights Commission, stated that “You have insisted that this nation must follow policies and reflect an unequivocal commitment to the goal of equal opportunity for all in all walks of life… You are one our nation’s truly great leaders in the field of civil rights.”

 In 1982, Dr. Freeman joined 15 other former high federal officials who formed a bipartisan Citizens Commission on Civil Rights to monitor the federal government’s enforcement of laws barring discrimination. 

Dr. Freeman has extensive experience in the areas of housing, in civil and probate law, and in civil rights.  She has represented individuals and major corporations, not-for-profit organizations, and state and municipal agencies in state and federal courts.  A landmark in her career occurred in 1954 when she argued and won the case challenging racial segregation in public housing in St. Louis.

 Dr. Freeman has a deep commitment to volunteerism which has included service to:  Howard University Board of Trustees; National Council on Aging; National Council of Negro Women; Girl Scouts of the United States of America; Board of Directors of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis; Board of the United Way of Greater Saint Louis; Board of the Greater St. Louis Chapter of the United Nations Association; and the Trustee Board of the Washington Tabernacle Baptist Church.  She is also a past president of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. 

Dr. Freeman was married to the late Shelby T. Freeman for nearly 50 years.  They have one daughter, Shelby, and three grandsons.


Jack Greenberg was assistant counsel and then director-counsel to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund from 1949 to 1984. He has argued forty cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including the 1954 landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, which declared racial segregation unconstitutional. He joined the Columbia Law School faculty in 1984 and teaches constitutional, civil, and human rights law, as well as civil procedure. In 1996, he received the American Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award for his long-term contributions to the advancement of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights in the United States. In 2001, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton for his enduring work in defense of civil rights.

Over many years, Greenberg has participated in human rights missions to the former Soviet Union, Poland, South Africa, the Philippines, Korea, Nepal, and other destinations worldwide. He is a founding member of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the creator of the Earl Warren Legal Training Program at Columbia. He has also been a member of various organizations, including the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Human Rights Watch (1978-98), to name a few. 

Some of his publications include: Race Relations and American Law (1959); "Litigation for Social Change," (1973); Cases and Materials on Judicial Process and Social Change (1976); Dean Cuisine: The Liberated Man's Guide to Fine Cooking (with Vorenberg, 1991); Crusaders in the Courts: How a Dedicated Band of Lawyers Fought for the Civil Rights Revolution (1994); and numerous articles on civil rights, capital punishment, and other subjects.  His exciting life is the subject of a movie project by New Line Cinema to be released in 2005.

Greenberg received both his undergraduate and law degrees from Columbia University.



Oliver White Hill was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1907 under the shadow of Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the slave-based doctrine of separate but equal. His parents divorced soon after his birth, and he spent his early years living with his great-grandmother and a grand aunt. Segregation was at its height throughout his early childhood. At the age of six, Oliver Hill was reunited with his mother and stepfather, and lived with them in Roanoke, Virginia and Washington, D.C., where he was educated in the public schools.

After graduating from Dunbar High School, Hill earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Howard University (1933) and began the practice of law in 1934.   From the outset of his career, Oliver Hill litigated civil rights cases on behalf of African-Americans and participated in legal struggles to ensure protection of the law for all people.  He made his first major mark in the civil rights arena when he handled the case that equalized salaries for all teachers in Virginia, regardless of race. He later opened the door for future African-American politicians when in 1948 he became the first of his race elected to the Richmond City Council since Reconstruction.  

A courageous civil rights advocate, Oliver Hill has devoted his life to building a more just and inclusive America.  His landmark cases secured equal rights for African Americans in education, employment, housing, voting, and jury selection, and brought about the desegregation of public transit systems, public assembly and recreational facilities.  Successfully litigating one of the school desegregation cases later decided by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, he played a key role in overturning the “separate but equal” doctrine. 

Hill practiced law in his firm of Hill, Tucker and Marsh of Richmond, Virginia from 1939 until his retirement in 1998 at age 91.  This civil rights champion is a member of many local, state and national organizations and has received many citations and awards for his unparalleled achievements.  In 1983 students at the University of Virginia founded the Oliver W. Hill Black Pre-Law Association in full recognition and honor of this legendary fighter for justice and humanity. The juvenile court building in Richmond, Virginia is named in his honor, and a bronze bust of Hill is on view at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. 

In 1999, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the Nation can bestow upon a citizen, was presented to Hill by President William J. Clinton, and in July 2000, he received the American Bar Association Medal. In announcing the award, ABA president William G. Paul stated, “Oliver Hill has toiled for more than two generations to make equality and justice living realities for all the people of the United States.” Noted Harvard Law Professor Charles J. Ogletree has said of Hill:  “As one of America’s most distinguished attorneys, his words and deeds . . . provide inspiration and direction for the 2lst century civil rights leaders to continue the battle to make America the country it is destined to be.”



Charles Hamilton Houston conceived of and led the legal strategy to end lawful  racial segregation in the United States. He laid the legal groundwork through thought and action that ultimately led to the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education His death occurred four years before full fruition of his work to end the "separate but equal" doctrine was completed by those he taught and mentored at Howard. Houston not only participated in effecting the change, but was the inspiration and mentor to many others who carried on the battle and remains an inspiration to those working for social justice today.

Houston completed high school at the age of 15 and graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College in 1915.  He then taught at Howard University for two years until the onset of World War I. Houston enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Europe in World War I as a second lieutenant in field artillery.

As a result of some of his experiences in the segregated and racist Army, Houston decided that he needed to become an advocate to enforce the legal rights of the oppressed. In pursuit of this, following his honorable discharge from the Army in 1919, Houston enrolled at Harvard Law School from which he earned his Bachelor of Laws in 1922 and a doctorate in 1923. Houston was a stellar student and became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. He studied law at the University of Madrid until 1924 when he returned to Washington, DC, and joined his father's law practice.

Houston is recognized as the architect behind the ultimate success of the long struggle to end legalized discrimination and, in particular, the "separate but equal" doctrine accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson.  Houston, together with a select group of mostly Howard lawyers, and working through the NAACP and later the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, created a number of precedents that ultimately led to the dismantling of de jure discrimination after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Among the major steps were Pearson v. Murray (1936) and State ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (1939). In Pearson Houston and Thurgood Marshall established in the highest court of Maryland that the University of Maryland could not exclude African Americans. In Gaines, this principle was extended to the entire country when the U.S. Supreme Court held that Missouri could not exclude blacks from the state law school. Ultimately this precedent was extended to other schools and ultimately down to public primary and secondary education.

Houston's importance was recognized by his colleagues, students, and intellectual heirs. He was posthumously awarded the NAACP's Spingarn Medal in 1950 and in 1958 the main building of the Howard University School of Law was dedicated as Charles Hamilton Houston Hall. His importance became more broadly known through the success of Thurgood Marshall and after the 1983 publication of Genna Rae McNeil's Groundwork: Charles Hamilton Houston and the Struggle for Civil Rights (U. of Pa. Press 1983).

Charles Hamilton Houston's credo guides the Howard University School of Law's mission to this day: "A lawyer's either a social engineer or he's a parasite on society." ... A social engineer [is] a highly skilled, perceptive, sensitive lawyer who [understands] the Constitution of the United States and [knows] how to explore its uses in the solving of "problems of . . . local communities" and in "bettering conditions of the underprivileged citizens.