June 25, 2009
ATLANTA — Georgia State University College of Law Professor Paul Lombardo has been named a 2009 Georgia Author of the Year for his book, Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell.
The legal historian was among 90 first-time and veteran authors honored this week by the Georgia Writers Association. He was recognized in the creative nonfiction history category for his book, which is the only fully documented account ever written of Buck v. Bell, a notorious U.S. Supreme Court decision that led to more than 60,000 involuntary sterilizations of people described as “feebleminded and socially inadequate.”
“I’ve only been here for three years so it has been great to be honored among Georgia authors in a very short time,” Lombardo said. “The private attention among scholars to the kind of things I’ve been writing has been around for a long time, but this is the first time I’ve gotten a great deal of public attention and that’s very gratifying.”
Lombardo was also featured in a June 24 USA Today article titled “U.S. eugenics legacy: Ruling on Buck sterilization still stands.” The article tracks Lombardo’s 30 years of research of eugenics programs in the United States, including the infamous case of Carrie Buck, who was the first victim of the 1924 sterilization law.
"This woman got railroaded. And one of the giants of the Supreme Court was driving the train,” Lombardo says in the USA Today article, referring to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. who wrote the 1927 ruling in favor of Buck’s sterilization. "Three generations of imbeciles are enough," Holmes wrote in the ruling.
Lombardo was the last person to interview Carrie Buck before she died, and the book incorporates material he discovered such as Buck’s medical records, the honor roll grade book of her daughter, Vivian, private correspondence of the lawyer who was named to represent her, and the only existing photos of all three generations of the Buck family, which support the conclusion that the Buck case was a fraud.
Lombardo, who traveled to Rome to speak about the danger of eugenics at the Vatican in February, hopes the public attention to his book will help in his efforts to publicize the terrible history of eugenics. He has been instrumental in the movement to solicit apologies and legislative denunciations of past state eugenic laws in seven states.
“Like most scandals in our past we tend to forget them and there are some we should probably remember so that we can make public policy with our eyes open in the future,” Lombardo said.
Lombardo, who has published extensively on topics in health law, medico-legal history, and bioethics, is currently working on a book titled 100 Years of Eugenics: From the Indiana Experiment to the Human Genome Project. He teaches courses in Genetics and the Law, the History of Bioethics, Mental Health Law and the Legal Regulation of Human Research.