William H. Hastie (1904-1976) was an attorney, politician, and federal judge. A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Hastie received an undergraduate degree at Amherst College in 1925, followed by degrees (an LL.B. and S.J.D.) in law from Harvard Law School in 1930 and 1933. After graduation Hastie was appointed an assistant solicitor in the United States Department of the Interior, where he advised the department on racial matters. In 1937 President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Hastie to serve as a federal district judge in the Virgin Islands. He left the Virgin Islands in 1939 to become the dean of Howard University School of Law, where he served until 1946. During World War II, Hastie also served as a civilian aide to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, but he resigned to protest the discriminatory practices of the United States armed forces. Hastie was elected Territorial Governor of the Virgin Islands in 1946. He served as Governor until 1949, when President Harry S. Truman appointed Hastie to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. It was the highest judicial position an African American had attained at the time. Hastie served on the Court until his death, and he served as Chief Judge of the Court from 1968 to 1971.
Image: Original caption: William H. Hastie, Governor of the Virgin Islands, was nominated by President Truman to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, October 15th. Hastie, a former U.S. District Court Judge, is the first Negro to be named to a circuit post. October 15, 1949. Copyright: Bettmann/Corbis.