The People’s Lawyer by Bobby Caldwell
What’s it About?
An autobiography covering one man’s decades of experience defending Black people against racial injustice, police brutality and economic hardship.
After 20 years of defending clients, Bobby H. Caldwell was in a hallway in a court building one day immersed in conversation when a young lawyer came by, saw him, and hollered, “Hey, it’s the People’s Lawyer.”
The nickname stuck, and now so will his story of cases and causes defending Black people for 50 years against racial injustice, police brutality and economic hardship in the recently released autobiography The People’s Lawyer: A Radical Representation of Change, Courage and Commitment to Civil Rights, told by Caldwell himself and written with Shaundale R. Johnson.
“I didn’t necessarily plan to become a civil rights attorney,” Caldwell says. “I only set out to find a way to get my people from under the weight of oppressions. In my fight for civil rights, I’ve made some enemies and lost some friends.”
Caldwell’s work has made a difference, and he outlines many of his individual cases throughout the journey. Along the way, he had the chance to meet Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Jessie Jackson. Not all of his work was necessarily high profile, but plenty of it was. He is proud to share his stories with a world that has experienced “the growing pains of slavery, sit-ins and segregation…and still holds it breath with every ‘I can’t breathe’ or ‘Black Lives Matter’ moment.”
A QUICK HISTORY LESSON
Barriers started early for Caldwell, growing up in Dallas with polio and under the shadows of discrimination. He began practicing law in the 1960s and quickly found himself defending student activists. He also was influential in helping the Houston school district make African American studies part of its curriculum.
Eventually he began defending more militant activists including the members of the Peoples Party II, the TSU Five (five students at Texas Southern University), and other student movements across the country. In one high-profile case, he was able to get overturned the 30-year sentence of Lee Otis Johnson for smoking one joint of marijuana.
Caldwell later received a Lifetime Award from the Black Panthers for his commitment to defend Houston’s African American community.
Caldwell, through the astute narrative provided by Johnson, takes readers inside courtrooms and inside movements and beliefs that were going to affect change in our society and country regarding civil rights. He sets up each case, outlines the players, goes through the thought process, and what had to happen to achieve the necessary results.
A FASCINATING PERSPECTIVE
He pays tribute to those who had a profound influence on him. In one instance, he recalls the words of a high school teacher who taught him about respect: “You may live in the valley, but you must tell the people who live on the hill not to throw trash down on you.”
The People’s Lawyer is a brief, succinct account of a man and his work, a man who tried to make a difference in a world where difference, unfortunately, had more impact than it should have. Readers get inside the personality, the thinking, the actions and emotions of this much-accomplished leader.
For a fascinating perspective and a quick history lesson on the Civil Rights Movement and one man’s important contributions in it, pick up The People’s Lawyer.
“Much work has been done, and I’m glad I was a part of it,” says Caldwell. “Still there is much work to do. May my experiences shed light on the life I‘ve lived and the lives of those I’ve represented.”
About the author:
Bobby H. Caldwell spent more than 50 years in the courtroom. He gained national attention for overturning Lee Otis Johnson’s 30-year sentence for one joint in the 1960s; however, it was Carl Hampton’s assassination in the 1970s that shaped his career. Regarded as “The “People’s Lawyer,” Caldwell successfully defended members of the TSU-5, Houston’s People’s Party lI, and Houston’s Black Panther Party. He resides in the greater Houston area where he was at the forefront of significant racially and politically motivated criminal cases during the Civil Rights Movement. In The People’s Lawyer, he gives a behind-the-scenes look at what radical representation of an underrepresented people at one of the most revolutionary times of the nation’s history revealed.
Shaundale R. Johnson is an international award-winning writer and a multi-award-winning editor. She has written for over 35 years and edited for 10. Her clients range from award-winning indie to bestselling traditionally published authors, and she can be found working regular day jobs or featured on Facebook’s Red Table Talk. Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from Grambling State University and a certification in Technical Writing from the University of Texas at Arlington. She resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where she serves writers and businesses worldwide.
Publish Date: 2/3/2023
Author: Bobby Caldwell
Page Count: 153 pages