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A 4th grade experience was a career-defining moment for Attorney Ben Crump.

 

Growing up in Lumberton, North Carolina, he was bused to attend the town’s first integrated middle school in 1978. The sprawling building contained new books, new furniture, and the latest in technological equipment, along with many affluent white children.

 

One day in the cafeteria, as he stood in line with other low-income black youth to receive a free pre-packaged meal, he watched as wealthy white youngsters paid money to buy the food of their choice.

 

But a little white girl pulled out a $100 bill and offered to purchase lunch for the blacks.

 

“She said it was her weekly allowance. I remember being blown away by that and thinking that my mother would have to work a week to bring home $100,” recalled Crump, who wondered at the time, “Man, how can some people have it so good and people on my side of town have it so challenging?” 

 

Still he remained excited about the new school and his mother and teachers explained that the integrated facility was due to the efforts of the then-attorney and later U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, who won the landmark 1955 case of Brown vs. Board of Education that outlawed segregated schools. 

 

At that moment, Crump decided, “I want to be like Thurgood Marshall so I can make it better for my community and for people who live like me and look like me. From that day to this one, that’s what I still try to do. I go in court and fight like hell to try to make it better for us, our community, people who look like us.”

 

Crump has stayed true to that commitment as demonstrated by his representation of the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice.  His relentless work on their behalf has elevated the national conversation surrounding social justice and the killings of unarmed African Americans by law enforcement personnel.

 

Admittedly, few officers have been convicted to date, despite visual evidence depicting questionable police behavior, but Crump is not easing up on the pressure to hold officials accountable for their actions.  His recent cases include lawsuits against the Tulsa, Oklahoma PD for the fatal police shooting of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, and against the LAPD for the death of Alesia Thomas, an African American woman who died while in police custody.

 

While police killings of unarmed people of color appear to occur with increasing frequency, Crump insisted the incidents are not something new.

 

“I think it (attacks) were always going on for decades.  All throughout American history people have said that police and the government were abusing us, using excessive force and doing all manner of things against us,” he said.

 

“With the advent of technology, you get to see it with your own eyes.  Whenever black and brown people said, ‘The police brutalized me,’ nobody would believe them.  They always took the cop’s word for it.  But now with cell phone videos, surveillance videos, dash cam videos, we see it wasn’t the little black and brown people lying on police, it was the police lying on little black and brown people.  It’s coming to the forefront, but America it still not trying to hold people accountable...and that is the battle.”

 

As he continues the fight for social justice, Crump issued a call to all citizens to participate in the campaign by refusing to remain silent about inequalities, exercising the right to vote, serving on juries and demanding diversity in police departments.

 

“You just can’t depend just on the court to fight for justice.  It starts in the community,” he said.

 

 

To further his social justice advocacy, Crump just opened a new firm, Ben Crump Law, that will focus on civil rights, employment law, personal injury, workers’ compensation, medical malpractice and wrongful death cases, as well as mass torts and class actions.

 

 

The business, which has offices in Los Angeles, Washington DC and Tallahassee, Florida, has affiliated with the Morgan & Morgan law firm to allow it to employ top lawyers to handle cases throughout the U.S.

 

 

 “Tapping into a nationwide team of talent gives us the scale to help individuals across the country and the ability to bring class actions and mass tort cases that can spur the progress toward real change,” said Crump.

 

His additional projects include hosting TV One’s “Evidence of Innocence,” which is based on wrongfully convicted citizens who have been exonerated by clear and convincing evidence, leading the investigation on A&E’s documentary series “Who Killed Tupac?” and a cameo in the film, “Marshall” set for release on October 13. 

 

Even with a full plate of activities, social justice will remain his passion, said Crump. “Standing on the shoulders of the legal giants of the past, we have to continue to use all of our blessings and influence to try to make a difference.  God has blessed me with this influence and our people need it more than ever now, especially in the age of Trump.”

 

 

 

 

Category: Cover Stories



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