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The Honorable James R. Spencer

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Information about The Honorable James R. Spencer

Profile image of The Honorable James R. Spencer

Profession

Category:
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Federal District Court Judge

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Rib Eye With Grits
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Nassau
Favorite Quote:
I Was Young But Now I'm Old But I Have Never Seen The Righteous Forsaken.

Birthplace

Born:
3/25/1949
Birth Location:
Florence, South Carolina

Profession

Category:
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Federal District Court Judge

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Rib Eye With Grits
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Nassau
Favorite Quote:
I Was Young But Now I'm Old But I Have Never Seen The Righteous Forsaken.

Birthplace

Born:
3/25/1949
Birth Location:
Florence
See how The Honorable James R. Spencer is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Judge James R. Spencer was born on March 25, 1949 in Florence, South Carolina. He was among the first in his family to attend college, enrolling at Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1967. He graduated magna cum laude in 1971, and went on to study at Harvard Law School, where he obtained his J.D. degree in 1974. The following year, Spencer graduated in the top five percent of his class at the Judge Advocate General’s School at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. Spencer later studied at the Howard University School of Divinity, graduating in 1985.

Spencer’s interest in law began in 1967, while working under civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman at her public interest law firm, the Washington Research Project. Upon graduating from Harvard Law School, he worked as a staff attorney with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. He went on to serve as a prosecutor, and then as chief of justice, with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps from 1975 to 1978. From there, Spencer became an assistant attorney general, serving the U.S. Attorney’s Office of District of Columbia. He was the first African American attorney assigned to the office’s Major Crimes Division. In 1983, he moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia, where he remained until 1986 when he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the first African American district court judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. From 1987 to 1996, Spencer also served as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Virginia. In 2004, Spencer was appointed as chief justice of the district, serving until 2011. In 2014, Spencer assumed the rank of senior judge. He presided over a number of high-profile cases over the course of his career, including the 2006 patent infringement suit between Research In Motion, the maker of BlackBerry devices, and the patent holding company NTP, Inc.; and the 2014 corruption trial of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

Spencer was a member of numerous professional, civic and fraternal organizations, including the State Bar of Georgia, the District of Columbia Bar, the Virginia State Bar, the National Bar Association, the Old Dominion Bar Association, and the Federal Bar Association, Big Brothers of America, the NAACP, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Mu, Sigma Pi Phi, and Phi Beta Kappa. Spencer also earned a black belt and was a member of the U.S. Karate Association. He served as associate pastor of the 3rd Union Baptist Church in King William, Virginia.

Judge James R. Spencer was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 8, 2016.

See how The Honorable James R. Spencer is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable James R. Spencer's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable James R. Spencer lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about his father's military service
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes how his parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable James R. Spencer lists his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers his early neighborhood in Florence, South Carolina
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers segregation in Florence, South Carolina
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers an early case in his judicial career
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls working as a caddy at Florence Country Club in Florence, South Carolina
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers a racist encounter at a movie theater
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about his education at Carver Elementary School in Florence, South Carolina
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers a discouraging teacher
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls reading Jet Magazine as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers an early glimpse into the legal profession
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers attending Center Baptist Church in Florence, South Carolina
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls the school system in Florence, South Carolina
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about his activities at Wilson High School in Florence, South Carolina
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers playing music with his brother and cousin
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers the social gatherings of his youth
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls his decision to attend Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about classism in the South
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls the congregation's support of his educational endeavors
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers his father's death
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls his summer jobs
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers his early influences at Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls learning about African American history at Wilson High School
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers meeting Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about his summer internship with the Washington Research Project in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers his professors at Clark College
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers his mentors at Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls his decision to attend Harvard Law School
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his first year at Harvard Law School
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers his classmates and professors at Harvard Law School
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls his work experiences at Harvard Law School
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about passing the bar exam
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his experiences in Judge Advocate General's Corps
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about his family
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls being hired as an assistant United States attorney
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his experiences as assistant district attorney
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls attending Howard University School of Divinity
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers his appointment as a federal judge
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes the work of a federal judge
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls meeting Oliver W. Hill
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable James R. Spencer reflects upon his role as a federal judge
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers the patent case, NTP, Inc. v. Research in Motion, Ltd., pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers the patent case, NTP, Inc. v. Research in Motion, Ltd., pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls his efforts to improve diversity in government positions in Richmond, Virginia
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls becoming chief judge
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers the Kemba Smith case
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about discriminatory drug laws
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about his involvement with police brutality cases
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his role as senior judge
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable James R. Spencer shares his judicial philosophy
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable James R. Spencer reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about his children's accomplishments
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable James R. Spencer narrates his photographs