William T. Mason, Norfolk civil rights attorney

March 5, 2008

Listen to an audio recording of a two-part oral history interview of Norfolk attorney William T. Mason in Marsh 2008. Transcripts below.

March 5, 2008

March 12, 2008

Mason was interviewed by Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, Professor of History at the Norfolk State University, at the offices of the Robinson Law Group in Norfolk.

In the first interview, Mason talks about his family’s roots in Trinidad and Pennsylvania, his childhood growing up in Norfolk and New York City, and his education at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Colby College in Maine, and Howard University Law School. He recalls his father’s work as an insurance salesman and real estate broker in Norfolk and his mother’s career as a social worker and her volunteer work to improve housing and education in segregated Norfolk, which included work for the National Council of Negro Women in New York and Virginia, her work organizing the Women’s Interracial Council in Norfolk, her efforts to bring attention to the housing shortage in Norfolk after World War II, and her work to support students when the Norfolk schools were closed due to massive resistance.

Mason also reflects on working with civil rights attorney Oliver Hill and others in the Norfolk area during the 1940s. Toward the end of the interview, he discusses the context of his appointment as an attorney in the office of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and his work there, which included school desegregation cases. He concludes the interview by talking about attorneys Leonard W. Holt, E.A. Dawley, and Joseph A. Jordan, civil rights litigation in Norfolk during the 1970s and 1980s, and his relationship with Norfolk State University President Lyman Beecher Brooks.