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Alabama-born law professor named to Forbes '30 under 30'


Raised in Alabama in the working-class neighborhoods of north Huntsville ... Stroud often wore hand-me-downs from the children of white families whose homes his grandmother cleaned. He noticed the difference in those white families' lives and his.


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Hernandez DStroud has come a long way. Raised in Alabama in the working-class neighborhoods of north Huntsville, his parents -- Hernandez Kand Bettie Stroud -- worked several jobs at one time to make ends meetThe length of that journey is not lost on the 29-year-old assistant law professor at Washington & Lee University. That journey, in fact, makes his selection as one of Forbes magazine's 2018 "30 under 30" list for Law and Policy, even more satisfyingBefore his mother got a job as a mail carrier, they lived frugally on his father's paycheck as a bread factory worker and his mother's odd jobs. "My parents worked tirelessly to give me the best childhood they could create," he saidWith both parents working long hours, his grandparents played a crucial role in helping to raise him. Stroud often wore hand-me-downs from the children of white families whose homes his grandmother cleanedHe noticed the difference in those white families' lives and his. "They had better toys; they didn't add water to empty soap bottles to get more soap; and their home, so grand, was like something out of a movie," Stroud said"Still, because my family loved me, I never thought long enough about the differences to notice a distinction or to raise a questionNothing felt amissBut I did grow up telling myself, 'One day, I want to live in a house like this.'" He's not ashamed of his background, but wears it like a badge. "Few things in my childhood taught me the value of hard work like walking for miles in cheap shoes in the Alabama sun, scavenging with my grandfather for cans to sell to earn a few bucks," Stroud said. He put in the hard workStroud attended Montview Elementary and Chapman Middle School and graduated from Hazel Green High School in 2006. He went to the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2010, on full academic and music scholarships, having played classical trumpet from age 9. After becoming the first in his family to graduate from college, he earned his master's in education policy and urban education from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 and his law degree from Washington and Lee in 2015After graduating, he held a fellowship at Yale Law School for a year, and in 2016, clerked for the U.SDistrict Court of the Northern District of Alabama. He now serves, just two years after graduating, as an assistant law professor at his alma materOne of his proudest moments in law came in 2014 when he argued before U.SSupreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in Washington and Lee's annual moot court competition. Now, he's been recognized by one of the nation's premier publications as being one of the nation's most promising young people in his chosen profession. That doesn't mean he's changed insideBefore passing away, his grandparents, a mechanic named Henry Ford, Srand a maid named Charlie Mae Ford, made sure of that. "Neither of my grandparents graduated from high school, but they were the wisest people I have ever metMy grandparents' lives represent some of the deepest wounds of our nation's social fabric," he said"Imagining your grandparents, bone-tired from working for others, drink from water fountains marked 'colored' or being instructed to eat food in a room with a dog due to their skin color makes it easy to comprehend the value of justice, empathy, and appreciation for the small things in life. "My grandparents are why, whenever I commence a new job, I smile and introduce myself to the person raking the leaves or mopping the floors," Stroud said"Those people are, essentially, no different than my grandparents." During graduate school, Stroud worked two years for Teach for America in west Philadelphia, at a public, all boys charter schoolHe taught 10th grade history and civics. "Teaching in Philadelphia confirmed my decision to go to law schoolMy students were quite bright; they were funny, inspiring, and thoughtful; they wanted to succeed just like any other kids," he said"But they faced tremendous challenges in their goings on outside the classroom that affected their ability to concentrate inside the classroomI have even lost some former students to violence and suicideThat deeply troubles me. "Understanding that a student had their head down, not because they were disinterested in learning or apathetic toward their future, but because they were suffering trauma, meant that I had to figure out how best to tap my students' potential," he said"Having some experience in such a life helped me do that." His ultimate path to the legal profession has its roots in AlabamaDuring his freshman year at UAB, a parent of one of his close friends was murderedHe attended the trial to support his friend. "Observing the judge and lawyers made me realize that the judiciary may be, at times, the one governmental institution that safeguards liberty and promotes justice for a poor or penniless person," he said"I wanted to be like those people, to use the law to ensure justice for all parties involved in a matter." Though there in support of the victim's family, "I had not considered the criminal defendant's humanity," Stroud stated"Yes, the defendant had committed an atrocious act but as the trial progressed, I began to wonder about his story: He had a family present who appeared to love him and thought the world of him," he said. "That the judge was a servant of the law, not the other way around, and that the judge treated the defendant as an individual, not as some animal, while holding the defendant responsible, intrigued me." "In other words, seeing what I now understand as the rule of law -- which protects the rights and liberties of all Americans -- in action taught me that without the rule of law, any rights are meaningless." The journey takes a new turn for Stroud this yearHe's been selected to clerk at the U.SCourt of the Appeals for the First Circuit, an opportunity that could lead to a clerkship at the U.SSupreme CourtPretty good for a kid from Alabama who'd never met a lawyer until he got to college at UAB. He'd love it if kids today who are growing up in similar settings could be able to dream beyond their circumstances. "I am not naive that for some children, especially those in the direst circumstances, this may be easier said than done," he said"However, if I could talk today with kids who face hardship, I would say to them to try to find a passion in lifeAnd to work as hard as you can in school. "Wanting to be the best at trumpet--my passion--distracted me from the streets and that developed in me a dogged optimism that good enough isn't good enough."  Haskins writes about points of pride statewideEmail your suggestions to shaskins@al.com, or tweet them to @Shelly_Haskins using #AlabamaProud window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'alternating-thumbnails-a', container: 'taboola-below-article-thumbnails', placement: 'Below Article Thumbnails', target_type: 'mix' }); if (pb_page_template == undefined) { var pb_page_template = 'article'; } if (pb_page_template != "index") { document.write('); } Down in Alabama News and life Daily briefing » AL.com's Ike Morgan talks about what's going on in our stateListen on: iTunes Alexa Stitcher Google Play Soundcloud Columnists John Archibald Kyle Whitmire Roy SJohnson Most Read Active Discussions if (pb_page_template == "index") { document.write('); } else { document.write('); } /* */ resimg.resimf(); About Us About Alabama Media Group Jobs at Alabama Media Group Advertise with us News In Education Frequently Asked Questions About AL.com Contact Us Online Store Already a Subscriber? 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