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The Honorable William Sylvester White

Judge William Sylvester White was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 27, 1914. He attended law school at the University of Chicago after graduating from Hyde Park High School. Upon graduation, he was hired as the assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, where he tried a myriad of cases and enjoyed the experience thoroughly. After fifteen years at this position, he became assistant state's attorney for Cook County.

Interested in becoming a judge, White involved himself in local politics, and his stellar performance earned him three separate appointments between 1961 and 1964. In 1972, White was honored by the Cook County Bar Association as Judge of the Year. In 1990, he began his tenure as a Juvenile Court justice and his expertise in this area garnered him several awards and honors over the years. In additions to these credits, White has also authored and co-authored several articles.

Prior to his judicial career White joined the United States Navy in 1943. White became one of the Navy’s first commissioned African American officers in March of 1944, along with twelve other African American men. These men were later known as the “Golden Thirteen.” Although nearly one hundred thousand African Americans were enlisted in the Navy, none were considered officers until this date.

White passed away on February 16, 2004.

Accession Number

A2000.041

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

9/5/2000

Last Name

White

Maker Category
Middle Name

Sylvester

Organizations
Schools

University of Chicago

Hyde Park Academy High School

Emmett Louis Till Math & Science Academy

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

WHI01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Warm

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

7/27/1914

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ice Cream (Chocolate)

Death Date

2/16/2004

Short Description

Juvenile court judge and military officer The Honorable William Sylvester White (1914 - 2004 ) was one of the first African American officers in the United States Navy, known as the "Golden Thirteen." In the 1960s, White became a judge in Chicago, and by 1990, he began his tenure as a Juvenile Court justice.

Employment

Northern District of Illinois

Cook County States Attorney's Office

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:309,57:13184,204:15347,234:25455,268:50773,436:51774,450:56276,475:60523,518:74540,585:78254,628:84870,688:89348,722:92430,763:93024,784:93486,793:98716,855:101524,926:101836,952:102538,966:106126,1013:110595,1040:111092,1049:112583,1079:124236,1212:124708,1217:126052,1236$0,0:26785,223:31927,288:36686,302:37018,310:37350,315:38014,325:39360,338:45715,398:46490,404:60250,481:62540,490:63392,497:82110,545:82518,552:83130,563:83674,573:97082,621:101868,654:102336,675:107318,711:107630,716:116382,813:119354,836:133006,854
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of William White interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - William White's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - William White describes his mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - William White describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - William White describes his parents' educational backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - William White recalls a racist encounter from his youth

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - William White shares memories of his family life

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - William White discusses his early school life

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - William White describes himself as a young person

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - William White remembers his youth in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - William White recalls summers at the Idlewild resort, Idlewild, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - William White shares memories of the Chicago of his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - William White recalls his undergraduate and law school years

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - William White discusses early occupational changes

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - William White reviews the development of his career

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - William White details his time in the U.S. Attorney's Office

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - William White recalls being drafted by the U.S. military

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - William White details his experiences in the U.S. Navy as part of the Golden Thirteen

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - William White details his career appointments

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - William White details his experiences as a criminal court judge

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - William White describes his experiences as a juvenile court judge

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - William White evaluates careers in law

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - William White considers issues facing the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - William White remembers inspirational figures

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - William White describes how he'd like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

6$4

DATitle
William White recalls a racist encounter from his youth
William White discusses early occupational changes
Transcript
You're the only child?$$Yeah.$$Okay. So I wanna move to your growing up here and what it was like and you know what--what even your childhood was like growing up. Well, what I'd like you to do is maybe share with us some of--one of your earliest memories?$$I lived, first lived at--on Vernon [Avenue], 66th [Street] and Vernon [Chicago, Illinois] and then when I was six, five, I moved to 6342 Eberhardt [Avenue] and when I was there almost all my neighbors were white. I know I remember this because I could've--a girl sat--sat on my steps--you know, the steps down and I told her move 'cause she has no business sitting on steps and she called me a nigger and I never heard the word before. So I came in and told my mother [Mary Matilda Houston White]. My mother told me to go back out there and tell--call her a dirty white trash. I didn't do it because she was gone when I went back there (laughter), but I remember that. I never thought--I never thought that dirty white trash was enough for--was bad enough. I'd later learned some bad words but they were never bad enough but I don't know, it didn't feel like I was getting even when I called her a dirty white trash.$$And how old do you think you were around then?$$Five.$You graduate [University of Chicago Law School] in '37 [1937] and at that point in time what do you do?$$Edith Sampson, did you know her--was married to a fellow named Joe Clayton and he was supposed to be a whiz bang of a lawyer. In fact he was a whiz bang of a lawyer. So I got a job with him. He paid me five dollars a week. Isn't that a shame? I wasn't worth any more than that either. I never felt so--I almost gave up--well I did give up practicing law. I stopped and became a social worker. I can't give you the dates but I was a social worker for about six months and then Bob [William] Ming got a job in Washington [D.C.] with--going to Howard [University], teaching at Howard--Howard and so I went down there, and asked him to give me a job. He couldn't give me one but he said you can use the office. So I used his office until 1939.

The Honorable John Rogers, Sr.

John Rogers, Sr. was born on September 3, 1918, in Knoxville, Tennessee. His mother died when he was four and his father died when he was twelve. Rogers and his sisters moved to Chicago, Illinois, to live with an uncle, Henry Tanner, who was very benevolent and proved to be a great role model for Rogers.

From a young age, Rogers wanted to fly. After receiving his pilot's license, he got the chance of a lifetime when he was drafted into the U.S. Air Force. He was shipped off to Tuskegee, Alabama, where he became part of the legendary 99th Squadron of the Tuskegee Airmen. As an Airman he excelled, gaining a reputation as a combat pilot and flying more than 100 missions. By 1944 Rogers gained the rank of captain.

Upon his return to Chicago, Rogers decided he did not want to be a teacher and applied to law school at the University of Chicago. While there, he met and married Jewel Stradford, the daughter of a prominent family and a fellow law school student. Rogers served on the bench in Illinois as a Juvenile Court judge for twenty-one years. During that time, he developed a strong reputation as a justice who was both committed and fair.

Accession Number

A2000.034

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

2/22/2000

Last Name

Rogers

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Schools

Frances E. Willard Elementary School

Edward Tilden Career Community Academy High School

South Side Junior College

University of Chicago

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

John

Birth City, State, Country

Knoxville

HM ID

ROG02

Favorite Season

None

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cruises

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

9/3/1918

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

1/21/2014

Short Description

Juvenile court judge and tuskegee airman The Honorable John Rogers, Sr. (1918 - 2014 ) is a decorated fighter pilot of 99th Squadron, Tuskegee Airmen. After serving in the United States Air Force, Rogers moved back to Chicago, finished law school at the University of Chicago, and eventually served as a judge for twenty-one years in Illinois Juvenile Court.

Employment

United States Army Air Corps

Illinois Juvenile Court

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:372,9:2232,50:5212,86:5516,91:6504,107:11216,198:11824,208:12280,215:23768,425:26564,459:27020,466:31182,539:37008,599:37477,608:37946,617:38683,636:39889,663:40626,683:40894,688:48082,750:48447,756:53456,834:55496,903:57418,914:57714,919:58084,930:58380,935:58676,940:59046,946:59638,955:70923,1127:80018,1274:80428,1280:87370,1372:102578,1576:104528,1615:106556,1663:109754,1735:117144,1785:118232,1807:125544,1925:129432,1973:134000,2024$0,0:4470,118:6758,177:9310,235:12566,308:13182,316:14590,343:15030,349:44920,605:47352,667:48948,723:49328,729:52672,797:53584,812:54876,841:70170,1040:71955,1084:75865,1160:78920,1168:79224,1173:82500,1216:82900,1222:83620,1233:85300,1280:90005,1332:106064,1673:108949,1685:109533,1709:110920,1723:114716,1788:117490,1886:126027,2014:126422,2020:128318,2068:128634,2077:128950,2082:133069,2129:134743,2155:137140,2187:138466,2203:139168,2219:148830,2354:150774,2400:151350,2413:152070,2427:160557,2532:165108,2577:172420,2688:174310,2730:180638,2813:185524,2876:185852,2881:188120,2912
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - John Rogers, Sr.'s favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - John Rogers, Sr. recalls his childhood environs, Knoxville, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - John Rogers, Sr. describes his family life

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - John Rogers, Sr. recalls segregated Chicago

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - John Rogers, Sr. remembers his school life

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - John Rogers, Sr. reflects on his early interest in aviation

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - John Rogers, Sr. recounts his early employment in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - John Rogers, Sr. remembers his uncle

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - John Rogers, Sr. discusses his college prospects

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - John Rogers, Sr. describes his experience as a teacher in Chicago

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - John Rogers, Sr. remembers segregation at the time of his military enlistment

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - John Rogers Sr. recalls training with the Tuskegee Airmen

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - John Rogers Sr. relates instances of discrimination in the army

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - John Rogers Sr. describes being a combat pilot in World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - John Rogers Sr. recounts his experiences in North Africa during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - John Rogers Sr. remembers flying over Sicily as a World War II combat pilot

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - John Rogers Sr. recalls other flying experiences in World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - John Rogers Sr. discusses what made him a good combat pilot

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - John Rogers Sr. recalls his return to the U.S. after World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - John Rogers Sr. relates why he went to law school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - John Rogers Sr. describes his law school experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - John Rogers Sr. remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - John Rogers Sr. recounts his early marriage and career

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - John Rogers Sr. discusses changes in the social and legal environment from the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - John Rogers Sr. recalls his work to end discrimination

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - John Rogers Sr. remembers Walter White and Thurgood Marshall

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - John Rogers Sr. discusses his wife and son

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - John Rogers Sr. describes his work as a juvenile court judge

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - John Rogers Sr. reflects on his life and career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - John Rogers Sr. shares his opinion of Dempsey Travis

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

6$3

DATitle
John Rogers, Sr. reflects on his early interest in aviation
John Rogers Sr. describes being a combat pilot in World War II
Transcript
What I'm wondering as a youth. 'Cause we as, you know, young people always sometimes have some dreams and aspirations. I mean, what type of child would you sort of describe yourself as? And were there any things that you sort of dreamed about or, you know, fantasized about? Or--.$$Well, I wondered what's was gonna happen to me. I'm twelve years old going into a completely new environment. And you'd wonder what would happen to you. But I had a good, stable uncle [Henry Tanner]. And we didn't mo--I lived there in his house, one place till I went out on my own. And it wasn't like moving from one place to another. That you have with so many kids. I guess I have to say that because I experienced it as a judge in juvenile court. I had every opportunity. If I didn't do better, it was my fault. Now I know some people like to hear you say you liked flying and wanted to fly. Well that's true. And this movie that they have about Tuskegee Airmen and having a kid out in a field in an airplane coming in. And he says--he makes some expression about flying, I've forgotten what. But I wanted to fly. I remember when I was in Knoxville [Tennessee], walking with a friend of mine, all the way to the airport. Just to be able to say, I touched an airplane. I never expected to fly one. What was the name of that book? It was a book with (pause). God I'm getting old and can't remember. You would know the name of the book, I'm sure. But this was about--I can't think of the name at the moment. But they--the fella writes the story about the troubles that kids had. And one of the things was a plane was flying overhead and he was looking at that airplane and said, gee, some of these white boys sure can fly. He never had--he had no hope of ever flying. Bigger Thomas was one of the characters in that book ['Native Son']. I forgotten it. It was a long time ago.$$So you did have--You had dreams of sort of flying then.$$Well, I wanted to fly. I always wanted to fly. But I never expected to fly.$But, I don't know where we were. You asked--$$We were, we were talking about you flying as a combat pilot. You said that you, you're really, you know, you're glad you had the experience. And I would like you to talk about what that experience was. Where you were stationed and--$$Well, we were stationed various places. We started out in North Africa. And we first hit combat flying off of Cape Bon. And we would dive-bomb Pantelleria [Italy] which is a little island between Africa and Italy. And we used to, really Sicily, 'cause it's part of Italy. But we used to dive-bomb there. And well, nobody wants to get shot at. But once you're going down--see when you dive-bomb, you're going down. and when you're going down, you're trying to hit what you're going there for. You aren't going there to play. And you get a certain exhilaration I guess out of it. They're shooting at you sure, but you're shooting back, (chuckle). And you can see the tracers. Every fifth bullet is a tracer. And you see those tracers going out there. It would be--sometimes depending on what the target was, it would be so bad it would look like rain coming up. Because when they explode the fifth bullet, it's like a black smoke, and like a table top down there. And you're going down through that stuff. But they couldn't hit you because there was no way in the world a guy was gonna know where I'm gonna be, like they say, if you're flying at 10,000 feet. It's gonna take a bullet to come up there something like ten seconds, I may be off on the timing, but ten seconds. But no way in the world they're gonna know where I'm gonna be when that bullet gets up there. Because you didn't go straight in a straight line like the guys in the bombers. They were scared to death. Well, anybody would be scared. But in the bombers they had to hit--they'd go to the bomb line and from that bomb line to the target they flew in a straight line. They could anticipate where you were gonna be. But with us, you're going down, up, over any kind of way. You just don't keep the same altitude and don't go in a straight line. And what we did was trying to figure out to get to the target that you didn't want to be in a straight line where they would have a good chance to shoot at you. And I don't know. I don't think that there were so many guys shot down in dive-bombing. Even in strafing. Now that was the thing I hated most and strafing was down on the ground. That means at bases they got you going out there to shoot the people who are going in to protect the, our soldiers. They have you going to station a road or something like that, you see. Well, I was told along with others by more experienced pilots who had been there, don't go down the road. Go across the road. So you're there and gone before they got a chance to get their guns on you. So you got some exhilaration out of doing that.