THIS CITY has been the beneficiary of the dedication, hard work and wisdom of many people who have come here from other parts of the country. Judge J. Skelly Wright, who announced last week that he will retire on June 1, is one of them. Judge Wright, born and educated in New Orleans, became a federal judge in that city in 1949. It was there that he came to national attention because of his work to eliminate racial segregation in Louisiana. His rulings integrated the New Orleans public schools and Tulane University, the city's buses and streetcars and the law school at the state university. He enjoined the enforcement of state segregation laws as fast as the legislature could pass them. In 1962, President Kennedy, impressed by the jurist's learning and courage, elevated him to the court of appeals, and he moved to Washington. Not a single member of the Louisiana congressional delegation appeared with him at his confirmation hearing, but that state's loss was our gain.
The U.S. Court of Appeals here is thought to be the most important appellate forum in the country. That is because most of the cases beforeju the court involve the federal government and most of its decisions affect government de-ju partments and agencies operating across the nation. Judge Wright has written his share of these, and they are particularly characterized by a concern for civil liberties and individual freedom.
But during Judge Wright's time on the bench -- though to a lesser extent today -- the court has handled purely local matters as well. Of these, the most far-ranging decisions he wrote brought about the reorganization of the city's public schools in the late '60s and early '70s. The impact of his work in this area -- difficult and controversial at every step -- was profound. The citizens of this community and the country have been well served by this exemplary jurist. They will miss his presence on the bench.