The Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Program

History of the Program

The Hays Program is named for Arthur Garfield Hays, a leading New York lawyer who was a founder and general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Born in Rochester, New York in 1881, Hays graduated from Columbia Law School in 1905 and built a substantial law practice. Throughout his career, Hays devoted much of his time and energy to the defense of civil liberties. In one of his books, he wrote, “I hate to see people pushed around. I vent my emotions in trying to help them from being pushed.” In that spirit, and as a close associate of Roger Baldwin, the principal organizer of the American Civil Liberties Union, he served for 25 years as general counsel of ACLU. He played a leading role in many important cases, including the Scopes evolution trial in Tennessee, the Sweet segregation case in Detroit, the Countess Cathcart immigration case, the “Trenton Six” case, and the Reichstag fire litigation in Berlin.

Arthur Hays also was a major figure outside the courts. Defying bans on free speech by Mayor Frank Hague, he addressed public meetings in Jersey City, leading to a major first amendment ruling in the Supreme Court. In 1937, Hays headed an inquiry into police violations of civil liberties in Puerto Rico.

In 1951, Hays rebutted McCarthyism. Professor Dorsen wrote, "Senator Joe McCarthy was at the zenith of his power. The country—including then-General Eisenhower, as we learned the following year during his presidential campaign—was browbeaten by McCarthy and HUAC. Hays's defense of the First Amendment as it relates to radical speech and parties was as good as it could be at the time and maybe any time."

Hays was the author of several books, including Let Freedom Ring (1928, revised 1937), Trial by Prejudice (1933), Democracy Works (1939), and City Lawyer (1942). He died in 1954.