Retired Federal Judge John T. Curtin Dies at 95

Issued landmark order to desegregate Buffalo Schools in 1976

Tom Puckett
April 14, 2017 - 2:18 pm



Buffalo, NY (WBEN) The federal judge who issued the 1976 ruling to desegregate Buffalo Public Schools has died. John T. Curtin was 95.

n 1976, Curtin ruled on the case Arthur v. Nyquist, which effected the integration of the Buffalo Public School District. He ruled that schools were "deliberately segregated" and that they would need to begin desegregation efforts immediately. The plaintiffs in this case were a group of concerned parents and Buffalo Common Council member George Arthur. The defendants were the Buffalo Public School District, the City of Buffalo and New York State Commissioner of Education Ewald Nyquist. "It was of the most significant rulings in the history of Erie County and certainly Western New York," says retired State Supreme Court Judge Penny Wolfgang. "It made a difference in so many aspects of life in Western New York and aspects of employment. It was historic." Curtin also issued orders to bring in hiring quotas for not only schools, but police and fire departments in Buffalo. 

Wolfgang remembers Curtin as a gentleman. "He was always kind, always patient. He was the quintessential picture of a judge his entire career. People admired him even if they disagreed with his rulings," says Wolfgang. "People respected him for his knowledge, his fairness, for his very caring about people and the law, and his sensitivity."

Curtin served in the Marines during World War II. He earned his bachelor's degree at Canisius College and later graduated from UB Law School. He became US Attorney for the Western District from 1961-1967. He was appointed to a newly created federal judgeship in late 1967. He retired just one year ago from the bench.


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