Charles Ogletree Jr.


Charles Ogletree Jr., a Harvard Law professor, civil rights scholar, and Oak Bluffs summer resident, died Friday, August 4, 2023, at his home in Odenton, Md.

The New York Times reports that Ogletree, 70, died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Ogletree was the namesake of the Union Chapel’s “Charles Ogletree Public Forum Series” that included, most recently, Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, as well as authors Kellie Carter-Jackson and Nicole Hannah Jones.

Ogletree was also a speaker on the Vineyard himself, including a 2011 event titled “Voices for Obama” held at Union Chapel, when notable Islander authors and luminaries gathered in support of Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential run. 

Harvard Law Today reports that Ogletree became a professor at the prestigious school in 1993. “Throughout his career, Ogletree was a nationally recognized leader in addressing issues of race, justice, and equality. His teaching shaped generations of students working on those issues, including the future President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama,” the journal reported.

The former President and First Lady issued a statement after Ogletree’s passing: “He was an advocate for social justice, an incredible professor, and a mentor to many — including us. Our thoughts are with his wife Pamela, his entire family, and everyone who knew and loved this remarkable man,” the statement said.

Ogletree is known for representing victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots in a class-action lawsuit brought in the early 2000s that sought reparations for the victims. 

On the Vineyard, he was also known as an avid fisherman. In 2011, he took in the largest bluefish — at 15½ pounds — during the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby.