Gergel, a U.S. district judge serving in the Charleston courthouse at the center of his story, gives a vivid account of a little-known incident from 1946 that illuminates two of the nation’s landmark civil rights decisions. The episode occurred in Batesburg, South Carolina, when Sergeant Isaac Woodard, a decorated Black World War II vet, was forced off a bus. Still in uniform, he was then beaten blind by the local police chief, who came to trial only after activists alerted President Truman to the case. Though the chief was acquitted by an all-white jury, the presiding judge, J. Waties Waring, was outraged, and devoted himself to promoting equal rights; his work included the 1951 dissent in Briggs v. Elliott declaring public school segregation per se unconstitutional, an argument that laid the ground for the 1954 Brown decision. Similarly outraged, Truman ordered that the U.S. armed forces be desegregated.