by Jeremiah Norris (Colombia, 1963-65)
After graduation from Hamilton College cum laude in 1963, with an A. B. in English literature, Drew S. Days III, inspired by the civil rights leaders of that time, then went on to earn a law degree from Yale in 1966. He briefly practiced law in Chicago before serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras from 1967 to 1969. Returning to the U. S. in 1969, Drew became the first assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York City. He worked there for eight years, litigating a range of civil rights cases. He was admitted to practice law before the United States Supreme Court, and in the states of Illinois and New York.
In 1977, then-President Jimmy Carter nominated Drew to serve as the Assistant General for Civil Rights in the Department of Justice. His tenure was marked by an aggressive enforcement of the nation’s Civil Rights laws. He served as the first African American Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division in the Carter Administration until 1980. He held this position until 1981 when he joined the faculty of Yale Law School as a Professor of Law, working as its Director until 1993. In 1988, he founded the Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for Human Rights at the Yale Law School, and worked as its Director until 1993.
In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton nominated Drew to serve as Solicitor General in the Department of Justice. In that position he was responsible for representing the positions and interests of the United States in arguments before the Supreme Court.
Shortly after this appointment, Drew argued the Government’s case before the Supreme Court that the Lower Court’s decision in Knox v. United States was wrong even though it had found favor of the Government. He urged the Supreme Court to vacate Knox’s conviction for possession of child pornography; they remanded the case to a Circuit Court.
After leaving the Clinton Administration, Drew returned to Yale Law School and private practice. He was involved in national and international efforts to resolve social and economic issues — including Hurricane Katrina, poverty alleviation, the environment and juvenile justice.
One of his activities was to work as a Trustee at Hamilton College. In 2011, Hamilton opened the Days-Massolo Center with a goal of promoting diversity awareness and fostering dialogue among the wide variety of cultures represented on campus. The Center is dedicated to Drew and fellow Hamilton Trustee Arthur J. Massolo.
In that time of his life, Drew Days served two presidents, guiding them threw the thickets of legal entanglements on Civil Rights before the Supreme Court, always adhering to the rule of law via our Constitution, championing the rights of those in positions less able to do so, and developing Centers in two major U. S. universities devoted to a defense of diversity and Human Rights, thus meriting him a Profile in Citizenship cum laude.