Ned Holland

As a young Raider.
I fondly recall my time as one of Arthur Berney’s Raiders. Professor Berney gave me my very first opportunity to be involved in civil rights work. My assignment in the summer of 1966 was to Baltimore, Maryland, where I worked for the law firm of Thomas, Teach & Smith–two young black lawyers and one young Jewish lawyer. I mostly worked with Gerald Smith (an NAACP Legal Defense and Education fund lawyer intern) in two areas–police brutality and school desegregation. We asserted a theory of pendent jurisdiction, through which we attempted to obtain tort damages under state law, by asserting that the federal court had jurisdiction over the state tort claim pendent to a federal claim under the federal civil rights act.  We were never going to get anywhere in state courts and believed our chances were better in federal court. Our theory wasn’t immediately accepted, but I believe it now is the law.

Meanwhile, we were pursuing desegregation of public school districts on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, places where it was unsafe for a “civil rights worker” to go. The school districts and their patrons did not want to see us coming. I spent a night in Easton, Maryland, where a few nights earlier, shots had been fired at the house.

Ned, his wife, and her daughters.

Continuing the mission.
A couple of years later, after I had joined my Kansas City law firm, the firm supported my assignment to work further on school desegregation in South Carolina for the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights. I particularly remember that Strom Thurmond was not happy to have us in his state and complained to the Department of Justice about our activity. Unfortunately for his exercise of influence, we were there with LCCR and not the Department of Justice, so he had no leverage.

As evidenced by its support of my LCCR activity, my firm promoted civic involvement and I spent a great deal of time on local civic and political affairs, ultimately becoming Chairman of the Board of the public hospital system and a member of the Kansas City Missouri School District Board of Education. Ironically, when I was elected to the Board of Education, I automatically became a defendant in one of the longest running school desegregation cases in the country, one that reached the U.S. Supreme Court (Jenkins v. Missouri) a couple of times.  The federal judge ordered us to increase taxes and, although many people thought we should defy the court, I wasn’t going to be in contempt of court and, besides, I thought he was right, as did the Supreme Court. We took the action he ordered, although it did not make us popular.

Ned and his wife enjoying a vacation in Belize.

Eventually, I left my law firm and took executive roles at three different Fortune 500 companies, where, among other things, I was responsible for health care purchasing on behalf of our employees. That led me to know Kathleen Sebelius, first the Insurance Commissioner and then the Governor of Kansas. When she became Barack Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, she asked me to join her in Washington as her Assistant Secretary for Administration–essentially the chief administrative officer, exactly the type of job I had held in the private sector. I retired from that job at the end of Federal Fiscal Year 2015.

Coming full circle.
That circles me back to that summer after my first year in law school which substantially informed my practice as an employment lawyer and civic activist. I simply never have had a job, including in the federal government, that did not include responsibility, either as a plaintiff or a defendant, for civil rights enforcement. The lawyer in me truly can take either side of an argument and believes that everyone is entitled to representation. The human being and activist in me believes that insuring equal access to education, health care, and equal protection of the laws, is a mandate that all of us should pursue and on which, unfortunately, a great deal remains to be done.

Arthur Berney truly had a long-term impact on my life. I look forward to seeing old colleagues at our reunion to see if he had a similar impact on any of them.

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Ned celebrating the holidays with his family, including his children and grandchildren.