History in the Making

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Born into a Catholic family on April 23, 1879, in New York City, Paul J. McCormick became one of Los Angeles, California’s most important federal judges. On March 21, 1946, Judge McCormick’s judgment in favor of the Mendez v. Westminster case declared California schools must desegregate. Until that time, school segregation had relied on the 1896 court case, Plessy v. Ferguson, which justified it under racial segregation. McCormick’s singular decision marked a watershed in the fight for civil rights in the United States. While Judge McCormick promoted justice, equality, and civil rights, his court decision desegregating schools on behalf of Mexican students would mark the beginning to the end of segregation throughout the United States.