A. Dwight Pettit attended Howard University for his undergraduate degree from 1963 until 1967. While at Howard, Pettit played football, participated in the ROTC program (Air Force); reaching the rank of colonel and pledged Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. Also, while at Howard, he received the Holland Ware award for the student athlete demonstrating all around athletic and academic ability. Pettit earned his law degree from Howard Law School in 1970.
Upon graduation from Law School, A. Dwight Pettit was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the US Air Force Reserves and began his career as a trial attorney recruited by the Small Business Administration under President M. Richard Nixon. His duties included preparing briefs for the Department of Justice on fraud cases involving SBA loans and defending the SBA Affirmative Action programs. He litigated his first private case in 1971, Pettit vs. the United States representing his father for employment discrimination. The case received national acclaim and is considered a landmark decision, setting the evidentiary standard for back pay awards in discrimination cases and declaring executive orders as authority for remedy in federal employment discrimination cases. In 1971, Pettit also brought the first suit in the country against a state (the State of Maryland) for discrimination in the bar examination. The case would lead to Maryland and other states changing their testing practices. In 1973, Pettit left the SBA and formed Mitchell, Pettit, Davis and Gill and later in 1977 his own practice, A. Dwight Pettit, P.A.
A. Dwight Pettit has handled many high profile criminal and personal injury cases. He is known as the “Peoples’ Lawyer” with the slogan “If you need me, call me.” He is sought out for nationally televised news and radio talk shows.
In 1977, he won Scott v. Sutton Place, which held that Maryland landlords have responsibility and are liable for criminal activity on their property. In 1980 he won Crockett v. Baltimore City involving discrimination in Housing Sales. In 1983, he won his first million-dollar judgment. It was against the Washington, D.C. Transit Authority in the wrongful death case, Goodwin v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation. Pettit continues to practice law in Baltimore, where he resides with his wife, Barbara. Attorney A. Dwight Pettit in 2004 won the largest constitutional civil rights verdict in Maryland history and one of the largest police excessive force cases in the history of the nation ($105 million) in Brown v. Price. Attorney Pettit who has handled some of the highest profile criminal and civil cases including over 100 police brutality cases in the state has been in the private practice of law since 1973.
A. Dwight Pettit, a member of the Maryland Bar, the Nebraska Bar, The D.C. Bar, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims Bar and the U.S. Supreme Court Bar, sits on several boards and is a former president of Monumental City Bar Association of Maryland. He was appointed to the Maryland Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee, Inc. by Chief Judge of the Court of the Appeals of Maryland, Judge Robert Bell. He was formerly the Vice Chairman of the Finance Committee on the Maryland University System Board of Regents.
He has been married to Barbara M. Pettit for 50 years. He and Mrs. Barbara M. Pettit, a former Vice President at Johns Hopkins Hospital/Broadway Services, Inc., have two children Alvin D. Pettit, Jr. and Nahisha T. Pettit and one grandchild, Georgia D. Pettit. His office serving the State of Maryland is located uptown in Northwest Baltimore on Liberty Heights Avenue. He has served as political advisor to national and statewide candidates and elected officials. Most notably, he was state co-chairman and personal advisor to President Jimmy Carter in the 1976 Presidential election. He was appointed to the Democratic Party Compliance Commission by President Carter in 1978. He was a member of Democrats for Ehrlich in 2002 and personal advisor to Robert Ehrlich, former Governor of Maryland. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and the Prince Hall Masons.
A. Dwight Pettit has received numerous awards including the National Bar Association Hall of Fame Award in 2015; the 2013 NAACP Freedom Fighter Award; the NAACP Thurgood Marshall Award in 2013; The Greater Urban League Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award in 2013, The Howard University Alumni Achievement Award in 2005, the Aberdeen High School Hall of Fame Induction in 2007, and many others.
A. Dwight Pettit co-hosts a radio talk show every Friday morning on WOLB 1010AM Radio from 10 am to 12 noon which is part of the Radio One Family network owned by Cathy Hughes. The show focuses on political, national and local news that the people are talking about. He is often requested to be the special guest on other local affiliates and nationally syndicated radio shows such as the C4 Show on WBAL Radio, The David Brown Show and First Edition with Sean Yoes on Morgan State University’s WEAA 88.9, the Bev Smith Show, the NAACP Crisis Magazine with Judge Blackburne, Roland Martin, Carl Nelson, Democracy Now just to name a few. He is known for his knowledge in a wide range of areas concerning law, politics, and American and World history.
You have seen him countless times in the local media and on many of the national television stations such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, BBC, Al Jazeeri News and The Real News to name a few. In 2012 his memoir, Under Color of Law was published. The Rolling Stone Magazine has referred to A. Dwight Pettit as being “a legendary African American civil rights lawyer.”
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A. Dwight Pettit was born on September 29, 1945, in Rutherfordton, North Carolina. His mother worked as a beautician and his father worked as an electrical engineer. His family migrated to Baltimore after his father graduated from North Carolina A&T State College, now North Carolina A&T State University and was offered an engineering job in Maryland by the U.S. Army.
In 1958, his father initiated a lawsuit against Harford County Maryland school officials, forcing the school system to integrate African American Males into the previously all-white Aberdeen High School. A. Dwight Pettit, represented by Thurgood Marshall, Juanita Jackson Mitchell, Jack Greenburg and Tucker Dearing won his suit and was admitted to Aberdeen and graduated in 1963. In addition to being the first African American male to attend the school, he also integrated the football, baseball and wrestling teams.
Building on the backdrop of his involvement as (the) Plaintiff in three important civil-rights cases, author A. Dwight Pettit narrates his personal story from the 1940s to the present in Under Color of Law, published in 2012 and 2015. A successful civil-rights, constitutional, and criminal lawyer, Pettit focuses on the meaning of these cases for himself, his family, and the nation.
As a direct legal descendent and beneficiary of Brown v. Board of Education, Pettit shares its relevance to his education and to his career as a civil-rights lawyer. His memoir details a host of milestones, including an early childhood in the black community and a sudden transition into a tense, all-white world at Aberdeen High School where he was admitted by order of the U.S. District Court.
He recalls his time at Howard University as well as the major litigation and representation in which he was involved as a lawyer, focusing in particular on his father's case which involved the treatment, torment and retaliation his father experienced at his job for bringing his son's desegregation lawsuit to trial. Attorney Pettit's memoir also traces his involvement in politics, especially his intimate role in the Jimmy Carter 1976 presidential campaign and the Carter administration.
Providing insight into past and current civil-rights issues, Under Color of Law underscores the Pettit family's pursuit of justice in the context of the drive for equal rights for all.
"One of the most emotional, fascinating books I have read. ... From start to finish, this book will have you question law as we know it and ask, in terms of racism and prejudice in America, 'Has anything really changed?" Zinah Brown, Editor