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Judge John Curtin: Reflections on Affirmative Action


Judge John Curtin: Reflections on Affirmative Action





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U.S. District Court Judge John Thomas Curtin (August 24, 1921 - April 14, 2017) was interviewed by WIVB-TV Senior Correspondent Rich Newberg on April 18, 1995. The subject was affirmative action. Judge Curtin issued rulings establishing minority hiring quotas in Buffalo’s police and fire departments and within the Buffalo School District. He believed minorities lacked opportunities for jobs and a quality education, resulting in what he once called “a poorly trained underclass” that became reliant on welfare. Born in Buffalo, Curtin served as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York from 1961 to 1967 before being nominated by President Lyndon Johnson for a seat on the United States District Court for the Western District of New York. He had been recommended by New York Senator Robert Kennedy. John Curtin was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on December 14, 1967. In 1976 Judge Curtin ordered that Buffalo public schools be desegregated. He ruled that minority students in Buffalo had been denied equal protection under the law, and that a segregated school system in Buffalo had been intentionally maintained. His rulings led to the hiring of more minority teachers and the creation of academically strong magnet schools that would encourage students of all races to accept being bused to these high level schools. Though Judge Curtin was targeted for criticism and sometimes even death threats by those who felt his rulings were overreaching, he consistently ruled in favor of removing barriers that had been built on “unfairness, bigotry (and) bias” against minorities, women, children, and those with special challenges.

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Archives & Special Collections Department, E. H. Butler Library


Monroe Fordham Regional History Center



Judge John Curtin: Reflections on Affirmative Action