J.L. Chestnut Jr.

No recounting of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march is credible without listing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Joseph Lowery, Bernard LaFayette, John Lewis, James Foreman and Dick Gregory. All seven were jailed in Alabama fighting for African-American voter empowerment.

They each had something else in common. Attorney J.L. (that was his given name) Chestnut Jr., who died Sept. 30 at the age of 77, represented them all. Unlike some lawyers who sought to be more famous, J.L. was content working behind the scenes to eradicate an unfair system that was the source of much discontent.

Instead of settling in the...