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                     Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                  December 15, 1998


Hillary and I were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. Throughout his life as a scholar, lawyer, and judge, Leon Higginbotham was one of our nation's most passionate and steadfast advocates for civil rights.

When Leon Higginbotham was named to the federal bench at the age of 36 by President Kennedy, he was the youngest federal judge to be appointed in three decades. He served with distinction and eventually became judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He also found the time to write and speak with idealism and rigor on the great dilemmas of race and justice. And because of this remarkable service and his indelible spirit, I had the honor in 1995 to award Judge Higginbotham the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to citizens in the United States.

His retirement was spent remarkably -- helping to draft the constitution for a democratic South Africa and teaching a fresh generation of students at Harvard. Judge Higginbotham's life as much as his scholarship set an example of commitment, enlargement and service to young minds at home and abroad.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, and their four children.