Mr. Maddox failed in his 1987 defense of a Black man who was ultimately convicted of slashing the face of a white model; Mr. Maddox had besmirched her character in court. But three years later he successfully defended Mr. Sharpton, cleared by a Manhattan jury of fraud and larceny charges brought by Mr. Abrams’s office.
Mr. Maddox had a few scrapes of his own with law enforcement. In 1967, soon after graduating from Howard University, he was beaten by police officers in his hometown, Newnan, Ga., during an argument over a parking space. He was arrested, but it is not clear if he did jail time. Seventeen years later in New York, he scuffled with court officers and was charged with judicial obstruction. Representing himself at trial, he won an acquittal.
“I have always engaged in nontraditional tactics,” he said in 1990.
Alton Henry Maddox Jr. was born on July 21, 1945, in Inkster, Mich., near Detroit. His his family moved to Newnan, southwest of Atlanta, during his boyhood. His father, Alton Sr., was an evangelical preacher, and his mother, Nicie (Simms) Maddox, taught grade school. “My mother simply did not want me in contact with white people,” Mr. Maddox told The Washington Post Magazine in 1987. “That was the kind of society we lived in. So I never knew a subservient role.”
After graduating from high school in Newnan, he went to Howard and then to Boston College’s law school, receiving his degree in 1971. By then he had been married for four years to Leola Weaver, whom he had met in Georgia on a blind date. Ms. Maddox, who held two librarian jobs to help pay the bills after her husband lost his law license, died in 2017.
In addition to his son, Mr. Maddox is survived by two grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
On moving to New York in 1973, he worked at Harlem Legal Services, then led the juvenile justice project of the National Conference of Black Lawyers. He started his own law practice in 1981, teaming on occasion with Mr. Mason.
Mr. Maddox never wavered from his insistence that African Americans had endured “apartheid justice” and that it was his duty to resist.
“The only thing I know to do in a courtroom is to knock the door down and whip some butt,” he said in 2015, adding: “There’s a reason why nobody would ever let me back in a courtroom again. Because they don’t want any more butt whippings.”
Alex Traub contributed reporting.
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