Monday, November 3, 2008

Senator Lamar Alexander, The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Bourbon Street

Listening to American Routes yesterday, I was surprised to learn that Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is both an accomplished musician and clerked here at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for Judge John Minor Wisdom.

Because he wasn’t paid much, Alexander filled in for musicians down on Bourbon Street. In the one-minute clip below, he described the time that Judge Wisdom took the judges on the court down to hear Alexander play.

I got to meet Judge Wisdom briefly when I did a three-week internship at the Fifth Circuit law library, but I had no clue at the time that I was meeting a living legend of the federal judiciary. Only later did I learn how unusual it is for a court building to be named for a living judge, and that he had been at the forefront of implementing Supreme Court desegregation decisions in the Fifth Circuit. It did not make him popular, and there were death threats and I’ve heard stories about how his dogs were poisoned and rattlesnakes were left in his mailbox.

Alexander’s description of Justice Wisdom and the other judges stomping around and dancing at Bourbon street is great. The Father’s Moustache is indeed not that there any more, and I haven’t turned up many details about the place.

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