Leading civil liberties expert to discuss latest book on American presidents

2012-03-20

BINGHAMTON, NY – Samuel Walker, a nationally recognized expert on policing, criminal justice policy and civil liberties, will present “Presidents and Civil Liberties: Scenes from the Oval Office,” at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Mar. 21, in room 1106 of the Library North building on the Binghamton University campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Walker, an emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, is the author of 14 books and dozens of articles. The Mar. 21 talk will focus on his latest book, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama: A Story of Poor Custodians, which will be published in April 2012 by Cambridge University Press.

Poor Custodians is a history of how American presidents have handled civil liberties issues. It begins with Woodrow Wilson’s suppression of dissent during World War I and ends with George W. Bush’s abuses in the war on terrorism, with concluding observations about Barack Obama. For each president, the book covers the full range of civil liberties issues: freedom of speech and press; religious liberty; due process of law; equal protection, including racial justice, women’s rights, lesbian and gay rights; privacy, including abortion and government data banks and surveillance; and all the issues related to national security.

An authority on American criminal justice and civil liberties, Walker is perhaps best known for his work on police accountability and for his definitive history of the American Civil Liberties Union, In Defense of American Liberties, which was first published in 1990 and issued in a revised edition in 2000 by Southern Illinois University Press. He is currently a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s National Working Group on Sexual Offenses by Police Officers.

In his student days, Walker was an active participant in the civil rights movement. He was a volunteer in the historic Mississippi “Freedom Summer” in 1964 to help register black voters in the state. One of his fellow activists in a voter registration training session was Andrew Goodman, who, along with Mickey Schwerner and James Chaney, was murdered at the very beginning of the project summer by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

In recognition of his scholarship and achievements, Walker has won numerous awards, grants and fellowships, including a $1 million Congressional grant for a Police Professionalism Initiative (1992-1995); fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Institute; the National ACLU Tribute to Civil Libertarians Award (2006); Faculty Member of the Year at the University of Omaha (2002); and the Distinguished Alumni award from his alma mater, Ohio State University (2001).

Walker received his doctorate in American history from Ohio State University in 1973 and began teaching at the University of Nebraska in 1974.

The discussion is sponsored by Binghamton University’s Department of History.

Last Updated: 9/17/13