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General Charles L. Decker Collection

Identifier: MSS-019

Scope Note

This collection contains documentation of the involvement of General Charles L. Decker with the National Defender Project.

The collection includes original documentation regarding grant inquiries, proposals, reports, presentations, congressional testimony, personal correspondence, research materials, brochures and seminar materials, budgetary documentation, journal and newspaper articles, legislative and regulatory materials, and other documentation.

Specific topics include public defenders, student defense clinics, the 1964 Criminal Justice Act, prisoner representation, and other indigent defense topics.


  • 1961 - 1976



All rights reserved by Georgetown University Law Library unless otherwise noted.

Biographical Sketch

Charles Lowman Decker was born in Oskaloosa, Kansas, on October 18, 1906. His parents were Charles and Monica Lowman Decker. General Decker had three sisters, Ruth Fish, Ailee Henry, and Nell Marie Molleston, and one brother, Richard Decker. He attended the United States Military Academy, graduating in June 1931, and was then commission in the Army. Although assigned to the infantry, Decker was engaged continuously in court-martial work during the 1930's . Prior to attending law school, he served with infantry regiments in the United States and overseas and taught English and Law at West Point. In 1941, he married Suzanne Minerault, of Paris, France. In law school, he stood first in his class in law school, won the Ethics award, was elected to the honor society, and was chancellor of his law club. After graduating from the Georgetown University School of Law in the spring of 1942, Col. Decker was transferred to the Judge Advocate General Department. In 1943, he received an advanced law degree from St. Edward’s University, Austin, TX. During the Second World War he served in Europe with XIII Corps, becoming Deputy Theater Judge Advocate of the European Theater of operations after V-E Day.

During his military career he served as judge advocate at all levels of command (except army group) from division judge advocate to Judge Advocate General of the Army. Major cases in which he played a part included the Fort Sam Houston riots, 1943, law member; Camp Van Dorn mutinies, 1943, prosecutor; and Japan v. Girard, 1957, defense counsel with Mr. Itsuro Hayashi. From 1947 to 1951 Col. Decker was chiefly concerned with the revision of the Army's military legal system. He organized and directed the preparation of the Manual for Courts-Martial, U.s. Army, 1949, and the Manual for Courts-Martial, united states, 1951. He was a coauthor of The Serviceman and the Law, through the sixth edition. General Decker has contributed numerous articles to professional legal journals. In 1951 Col. Decker played a major role in the establishment of The Judge Advocate General's School at Charlottesville, Virginia, and until 1955 served as its first commandant. Under his leadership the school was rated by civilian inspectors of the American Bar Association as having the outstanding specialized graduate legal program in the nation and was on the list of accredited law schools.

In 1957 he was appointed Assistant The Judge Advocate General and in 1961 The Judge Advocate General. He was been elected to the chairmanship of two of the 19 major sections in the American Bar Association: the Section of Criminal Law and the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar as well as being a member of the council of each of these sections. He also was a member of the nine-man managing committee of the ABA Student Loan Fund. General Decker has been a lecturer, seminarist, and panelist on bar and law school programs for many years. In 1963 and 1964 he was a member of a team of ten American Jurists headed by Supreme Court Justice William Brennan which undertook a two-year comparative law study of Anglo-American criminal trial procedure with a ten-man English team headed by Lord Chief Justice Parker. In 1963, after the Ford Foundation made a grant to the National Legal Aid and Defender Association to the better defense and related services in the criminal courts of the nation, the Executive Committee of the Association requested General Decker to retire early from his position as the Judge Advocate General of the Army to become the program director of the newly-formed National Defender Project. He was permitted to retire early from the Army, and on his retirement was awarded the Distinguished Service medal for outstanding service in a position of great responsibility. Underlying the citation were his early action to insure effectiveness of the bill of rights guaranteed to servicemen tried in the courts of other NATO nations, his founding and building of the Judge Advocate General’s School at Charlottesville, Virginia, and his creation of the United States Army Judiciary, the first independent military judiciary in the history of this country. The National Defender Project was established in January of 1964 to create exemplary defender services in a few communities in the country to serve as a pattern for others. Later, as a direct result of a grant application made by General Decker, the grant was enlarged to a total of $6.1 million so that demonstration projects could be distributed over the country, so that the project could have not just model public defender projects, but also model administrator projects. The grant also made possible that rural demonstration projects, as well as urban, could be created. Further, the additional grant made possible the sponsorship of law school courses designed to equip students in advocacy and defense, and to create a deeper sense of professional responsibility among the new lawyers of the country.

General Decker died in Washington, DC, on June 8, 1983 at Georgetown Hospital. At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife, Suzanne Minerault Decker and his sister, Nell Marie Molleston.

Source: General Charles Lowman Decker


25 linear feet

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged into five series.

  1. Series I - Inquiries Regarding Grants
  2. Series II - Grants
  3. Series III - State Defender Legislation and Student Practice Legislation
  4. Series IV - Files on Specific Individuals
  5. Series V - Working Papers

Processing Information

Special Collections is processing these materials: i.e. removing acidic folders and replacing with acid-free folders, removing staples and clips, flattening creased documents, and recording the content of each folder on an inventory list. Inventory is attached.

Finding Aid for the General Charles L. Decker Collection (Coll. 19)
Laura Bedard 6/6/1989. Updated and fully processed by Erin Page 3/15/2013.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts Repository

Georgetown University Law Library
111 G. Street NW
Washington D.C. 20001