Museum News

Statement on the Death of Civil Rights Attorney and Legal Scholar Drew S. Days III

November 19, 2020
Courtesy of Yale University

Spencer Crew, Interim Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture today, November 19 released the following statement on the passing of Drew S. Days III, a pioneer in the legal field and a treasured advisor and friend to the museum.

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Civil Rights Attorney and legal scholar Drew S. Days III. In addition to his pioneering work in the legal field, Drew Days was a distinguished founding member of the Museum’s Scholarly Advisory Committee. As a member of the committee, Days helped advise the Smithsonian’s Regents on issues, including recommendations on the planning, design and construction of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the acquisition of objects for the museum’s collections. His work helped elevate our museum into the premiere institution it is today. 

Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1941 and raised in Florida and New York, Drew S. Days was the Alfred M. Rankin Professor of Law at Yale University Law School. He received his bachelor’s degree from Hamilton College and a Law degree from Yale University. He initially practiced law in Chicago and was a volunteer attorney for the Illinois Civil Liberties Union. At the age of 30, he was part of the legal team that successfully pressed a suit to desegregate the schools in Tampa, Florida where he grew up. In the late 1960s, Days joined the Peace Corps, volunteering in Honduras. Upon his return to the United States, Days would go on to work at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education fund as First Assistant Counsel. In 1977, he was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to be the first African American Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. As Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Days successfully led the effort to endorse affirmative action programs in the landmark case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. In 1993, Days was appointed U.S. Solicitor General under President Bill Clinton where he argued cases on behalf of the government before the United States Supreme Court.
Prior to his appointment at Yale, Days taught at Temple University and the University of Ghana. He joined Yale University Law School in 1981 and in 1989 became the founding Director of the school’s Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for International Human Rights Law. 
All of us at NMAAHC were beneficiaries of Drew Days’ wisdom, experience, and friendship. He will be remembered for his singular contributions to the legal profession and his extensive public service. His presence will truly be missed. 

About the National Museum of African American History and Culture 
Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has welcomed more than 7 million visitors. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the nearly 400,000 square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit, follow @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000.

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Media Contact(s): 

Jason Spear (202) 633-9904;

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About The Museum

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation. A place that transcends the boundaries of race and culture that divide us, and becomes a lens into a story that unites us all.