Judge Who Ordered Desegregation of Pasadena’s Public Schools Dead at 95

Judge Manuel Real ordered busing in Pasadena schools in 1970

Published : Saturday, June 29, 2019 | 4:55 PM

Judge Manuel Lawrence Real. Court image

The man who ordered the desegregation of the Pasadena Unified School District has passed away.

Central District of California Senior Judge Manuel L. Real died on June 26, according to a press release. He was 95. The cause of his death was not made known.

Real was the longest serving active district judge in the country in modern history, with 50 years as an active district judge.

“I am sad beyond words at the death of our beloved friend, colleague, mentor and leader,” said Chief Judge Virginia A. Phillips. “Judge Real has been the heart and soul of our district since it was formed in 1966, and his passing leaves an unfillable void for us, his family, the legal world and the larger community. His legacy of public service is an inspiration beyond compare.”

In one of his most well-known cases, on January 20, 1970, Judge Real ordered the desegregation of the Pasadena Unified School District and enjoined the school district from discriminating on the basis of race.

The ruling came after local parents Jim and Bobbie Spangler, along with Skipper and Pat Rostker and Wilton and Dorothy Clarke, filed a federal lawsuit against the school district to force it to desegregate.

By 1965 nearly 800 mostly white students had left John Muir High School after nearby white and affluent community of La Cañada formed its own school district — a decade after the Supreme Court ordered all schools to desegregate.

After the exodus to La Cañada, wealthier white families of East Pasadena began placing their children at Pasadena High School which was 95 percent white, and Muir began inching towards a minority majority by 1965.

The impacts of busing on John Muir High School are touched on in the documentary, “Can We All Get Along?: The Segregation of John Muir High School” by local filmmaker Pablo Miralles.

“The case was almost dropped, if a plan by the school board to return the traditional neighborhood of East Altadena to Muir had been passed,” Miralles said. “But the neighborhood fought the plan, preferring to stay at the newly constructed PHS.”

Real was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the Central District of California four years earlier in 1966. Before assuming senior status in 2018, Real served as the chief judge of the Central District from 1982 to 1993.

Under his leadership and in large part thanks to his dedication and key support, Congress created the southern and Eastern divisions of the court in 1980 and 1992, respectively.

During his tenure at the Central District, Judge Real also lent his considerable assistance to understaffed courts throughout the country and served as a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 1981 to 1984.

Judge Real received his bachelor’s degree in 1944 from the University of Southern California and his law degree from Loyola Law School in 1951. He served in the United States Navy Reserve during World War II from 1943 to 1945. Following graduation from law school, Judge Real served as an assistant US attorney for the Southern District of California from 1952 to 1955 and was in private practice until 1964. He then served as the US Attorney for the Southern District of California from 1964 to 1966.
President Johnson nominated Judge Real to be a United States District Judge for the then-newly-created Central District of California on September 26, 1966. Judge Real was confirmed by the Senate on October 20, 1966, and received his commission on November 3, 1966.

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