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The Honorable James R. Spencer

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.

Accession Number

A2016.132

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/8/2016

Last Name

Spencer

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

R.

Schools

Clark Atlanta University

Harvard Law School

Howard University School of Divinity

Carver Elementary Magnet School

Wilson High School

Wilson Junior High School

First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Florence

HM ID

SPE64

Favorite Season

Fall

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Nassau

Favorite Quote

I Was Young But Now I'm Old But I Have Never Seen The Righteous Forsaken.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Virginia

Birth Date

3/25/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Richmond

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Rib Eye With Grits

Short Description

Judge James R. Spencer (1949 - ) worked for civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman at the Washington Research Project, and was the first African American federal district court judge in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Employment

Washington Research Project

Atlanta Legal Aid Society

U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps

District of Columbia

Eastern District of Virginia

University of Virginia

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

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

Stephen Robinson

Lawyer and Federal District Court Judge Stephen C. Robinson was born on January 25, 1957 to Yvonne Lee Robinson in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. His mother was a payroll clerk at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and his father was a probation officer. Robinson grew up in a housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, and in second grade was bused to predominantly white schools. Robinson graduated from Cornell University in 1981 with his B.A. degree in government. He went on to receive his J.D. degree from Cornell Law School in 1984.

Robinson began his legal career in 1984 as the first black lawyer hired at the law firm of Alexander & Green, a corporate firm based in New York City. He moved on to his first federal position as assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in 1987 working under then U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani. In 1991, Robinson was hired at Kroll Associates, an international private investigations firm, where he became associate general counsel and later managing director. In 1993, he was asked by the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to serve as special assistant to the director and general counsel. In 1995, he became counsel and subsequently chief compliance officer for Aetna, Inc. in Hartford, Connecticut. Robinson was then appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, in 1998, by President William Clinton, after being unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. During this time, he also served as interim manager and chief executive officer of Empower New Haven, a non-profit organization, and taught at Yale Law School as a senior research fellow. President George W. Bush appointed Robinson as a federal district court judge in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York in 2003. In 2010, Robinson resigned his position on the bench and joined the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP as a litigation partner.

Robinson was recognized by the Department of Justice for Superior Service for his work on the prosecution of U.S. v. Galanis, a securities and tax fraud trial in 1990. In 1997, he was the recipient of the Chairman’s Award while working at Aetna US Healthcare. In 2011, he was named chair of the New York City Bar Association’s Committee to Enhance Diversity in the Profession. Robinson also serves on the board of directors for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, the Cornell Law School Dean’s Advisory Committee, and the board of directors of Fordham Law School’s Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics. Robinson has one daughter, Victoria.

Stephen C. Robinson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 17, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.186

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/17/2014 |and| 09/12/2014

Last Name

Robinson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Middle Name

Craig

Schools

John Dewey High School

Cornell University

Cornell Law School

First Name

Stephen

Birth City, State, Country

Brooklyn

HM ID

ROB28

State

New York

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

1/25/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Short Description

Lawyer and federal district court judge Stephen Robinson (1957 - ) was a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP, and a U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York.

Employment

Alexander & Green

Southern District of New York

Kroll Associates

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Aetna, Inc.

District of Connecticut

Empower New Haven

Yale Law School

U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

The Honorable Vanessa D. Gilmore

United States District Judge Vanessa Gilmore was born in October of 1956 in St. Albans, New York. In 1977, Gilmore received her B.A. degree in textiles and marketing from Hampton University, and in 1981, she earned her J.D. degree from the University of Houston Law Center.

Upon graduation, Gilmore began a thirteen-year career at the Houston law firm of Vickery, Kilbride, Gilmore & Vickery, where she specialized in civil litigation. In 1984, she was also hired as an adjunct professor at the University of Houston College of Law. Under Texas Governor Ann Richards, Gilmore became the first African American to be appointed to the Texas Department of Commerce Policy Board. She served as chairperson of that board until 1994, when President Bill Clinton appointed her as a federal judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. At the time, Gilmore was the youngest sitting federal judge in the United States. In 2005, she presided over the high-profile Enron Broadband trial.

In 2008, Gilmore published her first book, A Boy Named Rocky: A Coloring Book for the Children of Incarcerated Parents, and has become a frequent speaker on issues related to these children and their families. In 2010, she released You Can’t Make This Up: Tales from a Judicial Diva, a humorous look at her life on and off the bench. Her next book, a fiction novel entitled Saving The Dream, was published in 2012. In 2014, she released Lynn’s Angels: The True Story of E. Lynn Harris and the Women Who Loved Him.

Gilmore is a sought after lecturer and speaker and has published noteworthy opinions on patients’ rights, the first amendment and copyright and patent law. She has served on the boards and advisory boards of a number of charitable organizations including the Houston Zoo, San Jacinto Girl Scouts, Spaulding for Children and Habitat for Humanity. Gilmore also serves on the board of trustees for Hampton University and on the board of Inprint, a literary arts organization. She is the recipient of numerous civic awards for community service and is a member of the Links, Inc. and Jack & Jill of America, Houston Chapter.

Gilmore lives in Houston, Texas with her son.

Vanessa Gilmore was interviewed byThe HistoryMakers on May 6, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.131

Sex

Female

Interview Date

5/6/2014

Last Name

Gilmore

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Diane

Schools

Hampton University

University of Houston

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Vanessa

Birth City, State, Country

St. Albans

HM ID

GIL09

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Any

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

No

Speaker Bureau Notes

Judge Gilmore would like to address audiences about incarcerated parents, adoption, legal issues, or pursuing a judicial career.

State

New York

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

10/26/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Houston

Country

United States

Short Description

Federal district court judge The Honorable Vanessa D. Gilmore (1956 - ) was appointed to serve as a federal judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas in 1994, becoming the youngest federal judge in the United States at the time. She was the author of four books: A Boy Named Rocky: A Coloring Book for the Children of Incarcerated Parents; You Can’t Make This Up: Tales from a Judicial Diva; Saving The Dream; and Lynn’s Angels: The True Story of E. Lynn Harris and the Women Who Loved Him.

Employment

Vickery, Kilbride, Gilmore & Vickery

University of Houston College of Law

United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas

The Honorable Audrey Collins

Federal District Court Judge Audrey B. Collins was born on June 12, 1945 in Chester, Pennsylvania to Dr. Furman L. Brodie Jr. and Audrey Moseley Brodie. She attended Yeadon High School in Yeadon, Pennsylvania, where she graduated as valedictorian of her class. Collins attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, earning her B.A. degree in political science in 1967. That year, she received Howard University’s Woman of the Year Award and married her husband, Dr. Tim Collins. In 1969, she earned her M.A. degree in public administration from American University’s School of Government and Public Administration. In 1974, Collins returned to school to earn her law degree from the University of California at Los Angeles. She was a member of the UCLA Law Review, and earned her J.D. degree in 1977, graduating with the Order of the Coif.

In 1977, Collins served as an assistant attorney of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and in 1978, she was hired as a deputy district attorney of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. In 1987, Collins was promoted to head deputy at the Torrance Branch office. She was then appointed as the assistant director of the Bureaus of Central and Special Operations the following year. In 1992, she was named the assistant district attorney and a deputy general counsel in the Office of the Special Advisor, where she served as counsel to the Los Angeles Police Department Board of Commissioners. Two years later, President Bill Clinton nominated Collins for a seat on the District Court for the Central District of California. She served as chief judge for the court from 2009 through September, 2012.

In 1988, Collins received the Loren Miller Lawyer of the Year Award by the John M. Langston Bar Association. In 1994, she was awarded the National Black Prosecutors Association’s Distinguished Service Award, and, in 2006, she was presented with the Bernard Jefferson Judge of the Year Award by the John M. Langston Bar Association. In 2012, Collins was awarded both the Outstanding Jurist Award from the Los Angeles County Bar Association and the Joan Dempsey Klein Distinguished Jurist Award. She is a member of the National Bar Association, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the Black Women Lawyers of Los Angeles County, the John M. Langston Bar Association, Women Lawyers of Los Angeles, and the National Association of Women Judges.

Collins and her husband have two adult children, one whom is an actor and the other an attorney.

Judge Audrey B. Collins was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 18, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.344

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/18/2013 |and| 11/14/2014

Last Name

Collins

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

B.

Schools

Yeadon High School

American University

University of California, Los Angeles School of Law

William B. Evans Elementary School

Howard University

First Name

Audrey

Birth City, State, Country

Chester

HM ID

COL25

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Santa Barbara, New York City

Favorite Quote

Let's Just Get It Done.$

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

6/12/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pie

Short Description

Federal district court judge The Honorable Audrey Collins (1945 - ) served in the Central District of California from 1994 to 2013. She was the court's chief judge from 2009 to 2012.

Employment

United States District Court

L.A. County District Attorney's Office

University of Southern California

Los Angeles Unified School District

Model Cities

District of Columbia Public Schools

Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher LLP

California Court of Appeal, District 2

Favorite Color

Blue

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Audrey Collins' interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Audrey Collins lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her mother's intelligence

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers ice deliveries at her maternal grandparents' home

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about her paternal relatives' migration to the North

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about her family's roots in the Presbyterian church

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Audrey Collins lists her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her parents' reasons for leaving Chester, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Audrey Collins recalls the discrimination against her family in Yeadon, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about her friendship with Donald Bogle

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers her mother's students

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers her elementary school teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes the grade levels at Yeadon Junior Senior High School in Yeadon, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers the music and television of her youth

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about her extracurricular activities

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Audrey Collins recalls the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about her father's political affiliation

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Audrey Collins recalls her summer employment

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers visiting the campus of Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about her professors at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers the civil rights activism at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers President Lyndon Baines Johnson's speech at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - The Honorable Audrey Collins recalls the start of her interest in law

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers joining the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - The Honorable Audrey Collins recalls teaching at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about her husband's dental career

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about her early jobs in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers the Watergate scandal

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers the School of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her experiences of discrimination she faced at the University of California, Los Angeles

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers her transition from private practice to the district attorney's office

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Audrey Collins recalls her work at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Audrey Collins recalls her work at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about her neighborhoods in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about the civil unrest in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about the case of the State of California v. Soon Ja Du

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers the Rodney King trials

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers her role on the Committee of Bar Examiners

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers her nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her work as a federal district judge

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about her staff

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about the need for new judicial positions

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers her ruling on Humanitarian Law Project v. Reno

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - The Honorable Audrey Collins recalls upholding the removal of nativity scenes from public property

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers a child custody case involving the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Audrey Collins' interview, session 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers her work with Johnnie Cochran

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Audrey Collins recalls serving as the legal advisor to the grand jury

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her career at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Audrey Collins recalls serving as a head deputy of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her position in the Association of Deputy District Attorneys

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Audrey Collins recalls her role as an assistant bureau director of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about her awards and honors

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about her role in the Los Angeles County Bar Association

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about police brutality in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes the changes in criminal justice in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers applying for a federal judgeship

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers her judicial confirmation hearing

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes the history of African American judges in California

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about the duties of a federal district judge

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes the outcome of her challenge to the USA PATRIOT Act

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her brother's legal work

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about her notable cases

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about the Myspace anti-spam ruling

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers the challenges to the City of Los Angeles' billboard ordinance

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her position as chief district judge

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about her programs to lower recidivism

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - The Honorable Audrey Collins remembers enforcing the rights of disabled prison inmates in Orange County, California

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - The Honorable Audrey Collins recalls serving as chief justice of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her decision to remain an active judge

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her appointment to the California Second District Court of Appeal

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - The Honorable Audrey Collins talks about the duties of an appellate judge

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her judicial philosophy

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her plans for the future

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - The Honorable Audrey Collins reflects upon her life

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her children

Tape: 8 Story: 11 - The Honorable Audrey Collins describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

12$5

DATitle
The Honorable Audrey Collins recalls the start of her interest in law
The Honorable Audrey Collins describes her work as a federal district judge
Transcript
Well in terms of p- political science, I know that Howard's political science department had to be a lot different from the civics classes you had in, in Yeadon [Pennsylvania], so what--what did you learn?$$ (Pause) I'm sorry?$$So what did you learn at Howard [Howard University, Washington, D.C.] that was different from what was at, taught at Yeadon High School [Yeadon Junior Senior High School, Yeadon, Pennsylvania], you know.$$ Well Yeadon, I mean you know that was high school. I'm sure I had civics of some kind because that's what they did then; they don't do it anymore, they don't have civics, which is a great loss. And I know Justice Sandra Day O'Connor you know, one of her goals in life now is to try to restore civics to the curriculum. So I'm sure we had it. But I mean Howard of course was just more in depth, examination of both our political system and then, and then others and some comparisons with other, other countries, essentially, parliamentary system, et cetera. So I mean it was, it was a very good program, and I can't say that there was any one thing that made me think I wanted to study law. But just being in that environment at that time, even from high school on, although high school was very different. You began to realize I mean people like Thurgood Marshall are in this environment. You know we have the [U.S.] Supreme Court downtown and all of these changes taking place. And this is an area in which you could do some good. To tell you the truth, I initially was interested in criminal defense because that seemed--I mean very logical at the time. You wanna defend people. It wasn't until later events took place that I switched over and became a prosecutor, both because that was where the opportunity was at the time, and I came to realize that you--there's really a lot of power in the prosecution. They are the people who decide whether to bring the charges in the first place. They have a lot of discretion in how a case is disposed of, which has to do with sentencing, and most of the victims are black or people of color across the country, and certainly here in L.A. [Los Angeles, California]. But the goal, at the time you know, you thought well I'm going--I wanna obviously gonna defend, you know. So certainly being in that atmosphere at Howard. I mean there were so many things going on. Even the fine arts, you know, was amazing. I didn't know Debbie Allen at the time, I think she was behind me. But just that--here you are and you know, you can do anything. Which was something my mother had already instilled in us of course that there's no limit because you're African American or a woman or whatever. And in fact I remember when I went through that phase, Future Nurses of America, I'm gonna be a nurse. My mother said, "Well why don't you wanna be a doctor?" And I thought okay. But I, I, I didn't at the time. I mean to me it was a nurse. And she's like, "No, why don't you wanna be a doctor?" So our--I think our, our parents [Audrey Moseley Collins and Furman Brodie, Jr.] raised us to obviously you're gonna get educated, you're--and you can do whatever you want. You decide what to do.$How'd you like the job? I mean you're still do- doing it, so you must like it (unclear).$$ Yes. No it's, it's a wonderful job. Both being a trial, trial judge and then the time I was chief judge. The variety is one of the best things. I mean there's some negative things about the system that aren't working right now; we're not getting new judgeships. We haven't had any new judgeships since 1990 and look how our population in the Central District [Central District of California] has boomed since then. So our caseload has just sort of gone up exponentially. But the variety is fun because you get to do everything, unlike many courts that are divided into departments, which makes a lot of sense. You know you either do criminal or you do civil, you do probate, you do family law, you know you do long cause trials, you do juvenile. We do everything. I mean I get civil and criminal cases, all at the same time. I get motions in criminal and civil all at the same time. You might be doing a criminal trial, you might be doing a civil trial. And the variety of cases within the civil arena is breathtaking. From constitutional law to things that are removed from state courts. You get your Fair Labor Standards Act [Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938], as well as your state labor code violations. You can get many employment law discrimination cases under both federal and state law. Discrimination based on sex, age, gender, race. Your Americans with Disabilities Act [Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990]. And again a lot of these also have state law counterparts. You get a lot of Americans Disabilities Act. And then you just get cases that are removed from state court because the defendant is not a California corporation. So again, a lot of California labor code, wage and hour violations, you know I didn't get my overtime, I didn't get my rest period, breach of contract. Just regular old breach of contract. I have a huge one involving Boeing [The Boeing Company] and some international corporations over some big deal they tried to do, Sea Launch [Sea Launch Company, LLC; Energia Overseas, Ltd.]. They were gonna launch satellites into space and it failed and everybody's suing everybody else. It's breach of contract. But they're from all different places, so there's diversity. So I've got, I've got breach of contract. It, it's just amazing--like copyright and intellectual property. Copyright, trademark, patent, just a little bit of admiralty law, not much but you know, if, if it's admiralty law, it has to come here [U.S. District Court for the Central District of California]. A little bit of--occasionally like a railroad case under the railroad act has to come here. So you truly never know what you're gonna get. I mean after nineteen years, I still see new stuff where I look at--I go, "What is this? I've never seen this before."

The Honorable Gregory Sleet

Judge Gregory M. Sleet was born on March 8, 1951 in New York, New York. He is the son of Moneta Sleet Jr., the first African American journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize. Sleet obtained his B.A. degree from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. He completed his J.D. degree from Rutgers University School of Law at Camden, New Jersey where he was an Earl Warren Scholar. Sleet began his career as an assistant public defender for the Defender Association of Philadelphia. He later left the Defender Association to join a private practice, later to serve as the Deputy Attorney General for the State of Delaware.

In 1992, Sleet worked as General Counsel for Hercules, Inc., a chemical and munitions company based in Wilmington, Delaware. In 1994, at the recommendation of Delaware United States Senator Joe Biden, Sleet was selected by President Bill Clinton to serve as the United States Attorney for the District of Delaware. A year later, he was appointed by United States Attorney General Janet Reno to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee. He was further honored by being named the Vice Chairman of the committees’ 1995-96 session. On January 27, 1998, Sleet was nominated to the United States District Court for the District of Delaware and was sworn in as judge of that court on September 28, 1998. In 2007, Sleet became Chief Judge. He is responsible for representing the Delaware district at judicial policy-making bodies in the 3rd United States Circuit Court of Appeals, overseeing the general business and operation of the Delaware court. He is the first African American to be appointed United States Attorney in Delaware and the first to be appointed to the federal bench in Delaware.

Sleet is the recipient of the 1994 Distinguished Service Award from the NAACP. He has been named one of “Fifty of the Finest” graduates in the first fifty years of Rutgers University – Camden Division. In 1998, Delaware Today magazine selected him as Delawarean of the year. Sleet currently holds an adjunct teaching position at Widener University School of Law, where he teaches a course in patent litigation. Sleet is also a member of the Third Circuit Committee on Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions, the Third Circuit Judicial Council Automation & Technology Committee, the Third Circuit Judicial Council Facilities and Security Committee and Member of the Third Circuit Judicial Council Case Management Committee.

Judge Gregory Sleet was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 24, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.127

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/25/2012

Last Name

Sleet

Maker Category
Middle Name

M.

Schools

Hampton University

Rutgers School of Law

Ulysses Byas Elementary School

Little Stars Academy at the Lutheran Church of the Epiphany

Long Island Lutheran Middle and High School

Lawrence Road Middle School

Uniondale High School

Connecticut College

First Name

Gregory

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

SLE01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Delaware

Birth Date

3/8/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Wilmington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Red Snapper

Short Description

Federal district court judge and united states attorney The Honorable Gregory Sleet (1951 - ) was the first African American U.S. Attorney in Delaware, and the first African American to be appointed to the federal bench in Delaware.

Employment

Public Defender Association of Philadelphia

Hercules, Inc.

District of Delaware

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:5844,152:6252,159:8607,190:9069,200:9531,207:9839,343:23920,588:29614,641:39020,734:47904,860:49147,874:53667,956:55475,973:89224,1338:89872,1348:91096,1387:91384,1392:94852,1470:96796,1494:97328,1503:99608,1588:100140,1616:107124,1688:107860,1708:116945,1829:118145,1862:131170,2044$0,0:4368,125:8148,201:8484,206:11390,315:11750,320:13960,338:14348,343:21518,436:22189,449:22616,457:24724,468:27740,547:28320,595:37216,707:45616,886:46288,896:48136,935:49480,949:49900,955:50992,979:74194,1184:74722,1197:75338,1206:81548,1280:93860,1508:114710,1668:116342,1775:116750,1780:120528,1813:121485,1843:124182,1911:124965,1919:125313,1924:126270,1938:128800,1955
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Gregory Sleet's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls visiting his maternal family in Lynchburg, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers his mother's career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about his paternal grandfather's career

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls his father's memorial celebration in Owensboro, Kentucky

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about his father's military service in World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his father's graduate education

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about his father's work at Our World magazine

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about his father's career at Ebony magazine

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers his father's Pulitzer Prize

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his likeness to his father

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about his community in Roosevelt, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls his early educational experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his transition to parochial education

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers Long Island Lutheran Middle and High School in Brookville, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls transferring to Lawrence Road Junior High School in Hempstead, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers his early academic record

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his early influences

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about his family's emphasis on education

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls travelling with his father

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers his father's photographs of the March on Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his father's international travels

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers learning to use a darkroom

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls the television and radio programs of his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls his aspiration to become a lawyer, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about his early experiences of religion

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers his aspiration to become a lawyer, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 15 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his activities during high school

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers leading a walk out at Uniondale High School in Uniondale, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about his black political heroes

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls his interest in attending Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers enrolling at the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his mentors at the Hampton Institute

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about his student activism at the Hampton Institute

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls applying to law school

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers his experiences at the Rutgers School of Law in Camden, New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his mentors at the Rutgers School of Law

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about the protests at the Rutgers School of Law

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers the Watergate hearings

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about the Earl Warren Scholarship

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls his introduction to public defense

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes the purpose of the Philadelphia Defenders Association

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about the duties of the Philadelphia Defenders Association

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes the demographics of his public defense clients

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls his experiences of racial discrimination in the courtroom

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his transition to private law practice

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls his position as corporate counsel at Hercules, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about his appointment as a U.S. Attorney

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls his nomination to the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers the U.S. Congressional confirmation process

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his role on the Attorney General's Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about his role as a federal district judge

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers United States v. John Walter Trala

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his responsibilities as chief judge

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about the NFL sports betting case

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls the case of United States v. Thomas S. Pendleton

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers the execution of Shannon Johnson, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers the execution of Shannon Johnson, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his position on the death penalty

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet talks about his family

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - The Honorable Gregory Sleet narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

3$2

DATitle
The Honorable Gregory Sleet recalls transferring to Lawrence Road Junior High School in Hempstead, New York
The Honorable Gregory Sleet remembers Long Island Lutheran Middle and High School in Brookville, New York
Transcript
I guess she [Sleet's mother, Juanita Harris Sleet] talked with my dad [Moneta Sleet], and they decided that--she called up one of her colleagues in her sister school. My mother taught at a school, a junior high school called Turtle Hook [Turtle Hook Junior High School; Turtle Hook Middle School] over in Uniondale, New York. And the sister school was Lawrence Road Junior High [Lawrence Road Junior High School; Lawrence Road Middle School, Hempstead, New York], and that was seventh through ninth, was how it worked in New York.$$So what's the name of it again, this--$$Her, my mom's school was Turtle Hook, Turtle Hook.$$Okay. But the school that you went to--$$Lawrence Road.$$Lawrence Road, okay.$$Yeah, junior high. So, she called up a colleague and friend of hers who was a guidance counselor there, Carolyn Cassio [ph.], who's now passed, and they decided on my future (laughter). They said, decided, 'cause back then, they track, you were in tracks in public school. And they decided that the best track--I forget what it was--I think I was in, you know, you track one through something, and I was in 7-2, I believe. And she said, Ms. Cassio, I remember saying, "We're not going to put you in 7-1." I don't remember what the reason was. She wanted me in 7-2, so that's what I did. I went, and through Lawrence Road and graduated from Lawrence Road, and went on to the high school, Uniondale High School [Uniondale, New York].$$Now 7-2 would, like the middle road--$$No, that would be like, just a notch below honors--$$Okay.$$--the highest honor--7-1, if you think the highest honor. I was in an honors track.$$Okay.$$Yeah, and then, you know, then you had 7-3, four, five, so there were several tracks below that. In any event, that's what, that's the way they decided I was going to be tracked. It wasn't based on any testing or anything that I knew about. It was, I guess, they looked on my, looked--Ms. Cassio looked at my academic record, and she knew me, as well, and decided that's where I was going to be tracked.$Then my parents [Juanita Harris Sleet and Moneta Sleet] thought that the experiment was doing okay. So they, they wanted to continue. So then I went--they put me, enrolled me in Long Island Lutheran High School [Long Island Lutheran Junior Senior High School; Long Island Lutheran Middle and High School], pretty well known Long Island High School in Brook- Brookville, Brookville, Long Island [New York]. At seventh grade, I didn't complete the seventh year. And this is one of those things, I can tell you exactly where I was when President Kennedy [President John Fitzgerald Kennedy] was shot. I was sitting outside in front of Dean Dutton's [ph.] office, one of the vice deans who was in charge of discipline. I hadn't actually done anything wrong this particular day other than tripped up the stairs coming, and fell into a door, and got, had a big knot on my head. So they called my mother who had to interrupt her day at school, about forty minutes away. It was a forty, at least a forty minute bus ride from where we lived out to Long Island Lutheran. And my head, it was all swelled up, and I have the clearest recollection of sitting out in a chair across from his office. The door was open, and he had a radio on. And you knew something was going on because people started gathering. And I remember this guy running down the hall. I believe he was a senior--I don't know his name, I know he was a white guy. That's what I remember about him, and he came down the hall yelling, "They finally got him, they finally got him." And I then walked to Dean Dutton's office, and that's when I learned that President Kennedy had been assassinated. My mother was literally a mess by the time she got to me. She cried the whole way home. And by that and, so that tragedy, coupled with--it wasn't first time she had to come to school (laughter), you know. It just so happened this was a benign purpose this time, but she just tired of it.

The Honorable Ivan Lemelle

U.S. District Court Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle was born on June 29, 1950, in Opelousas, Louisiana. In 1971, Lemelle graduated cum laude from Xavier University with a B.S. degree. Lemelle received many scholarships in order to attend Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans, where he graduated in 1974 with a J.D. degree. After graduation, he served for three years as an Assistant District Attorney in New Orleans, where he was promoted to supervisory positions within that office, including co-chief of narcotic prosecutions.

In 1977, Lemelle worked as a private practitioner with the law firm of Douglas, Nabonne & Wilkerson, the largest African American law firm in Louisiana at that time. He also served part-time as Assistant City Attorney for the City of New Orleans. From 1980 to October 2, 1984, Lemelle was the Assistant Attorney General for the Louisiana Department of Justice. From October 3, 1984 to 1998, he was a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. His appointment to that office made him the first African American United States Magistrate Judge in Louisiana federal courts and the sixth African American U. S. Magistrate Judge in the Nation. In 1998, President Bill Clinton appointed Lemelle to the position of United States District Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans, where he currently serves as the only African American District Judge for that Court.

In addition to service in leadership positions with numerous civic, fraternal and professional organizations, Judge Lemelle has also served on the Federal Judicial Center’s Advisory Committee for the Guide to Judicial Management of Cases in Alternate Dispute Resolution, President of the Loyola College of Law-Thomas More Inn of Court, Visiting Committee Board for Loyola College of Law, Amistad Research Center’s Executive Board, Federal Bar Association New Orleans Chapter Board of Directors, District Judges Association for the U. S. Fifth Circuit Executive Committee, and the Board of Reconcile New Orleans, Inc.-a nonprofit committed to addressing the system of generational poverty, violence and neglect in the New Orleans area.

Judge Ivan Lemelle was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 8, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.054

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/8/2010

Last Name

LeMelle

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

North Elementary School

St. Augustine Seminary

Xavier University of Louisiana

Opelousas Catholic School

Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

First Name

Ivan

Birth City, State, Country

Opelousas

HM ID

LEM02

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Swimming

Favorite Quote

The Reward For Doing Good Work Is To Do Better Work.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Louisiana

Birth Date

6/29/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New Orleans

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Federal district court judge The Honorable Ivan Lemelle (1950 - ) served as the U.S. Magistrate to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana for over a decade, and in 1998, he was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Employment

New Orleans Legal Assistance Corp.

United States Department of Defense

Xavier University

Loyola University City College Div.

Loyola University College of Law

United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana

District Attorney's Office

Law Firm of Douglas, Nabonne, & Wilkerson

City Attorney Office

Louisiana Department of Justice

Favorite Color

Black, Yellow

Timing Pairs
0,0:336,15:2016,38:5731,140:6216,146:6992,162:7768,170:8738,183:9320,190:13006,245:17180,291:19666,307:20890,326:21322,335:25494,400:26658,422:27434,430:40435,644:40910,650:54580,900:62155,1137:62455,1142:62830,1148:79790,1397:87252,1480:88476,1515:89020,1525:90720,1560:91808,1584:92148,1590:98058,1670:99804,1697:116066,1998:127640,2189:128044,2194:139840,2409:141030,2423:141398,2428:142134,2439:146746,2491:151290,2595:156310,2634:157443,2659:158164,2670:167658,2827:169018,2854:176870,2982:181422,3029:185481,3102:185877,3107:186570,3115:199355,3255:207010,3352$0,0:912,20:1352,26:7405,113:8070,122:8640,129:10350,153:11585,253:17095,332:21069,371:24147,438:24633,445:53584,803:54760,824:55152,829:56818,852:65250,963:75482,1144:76626,1207:77330,1222:80170,1227:80582,1232:87460,1330:89602,1394:90421,1419:90736,1425:90988,1430:91744,1447:92059,1453:92374,1459:92626,1464:102738,1557:103108,1565:109572,1636:109916,1641:110346,1647:110690,1652:118010,1749:118610,1755:119010,1760:127835,1891:137774,1944:138512,1965:148838,2104:150320,2231:151425,2246:159570,2304:160290,2314:161370,2335:162450,2348:163080,2356:165780,2399:166680,2412:167760,2434:174787,2512:176509,2528:181453,2581:182277,2590:194832,2673:195116,2678:195400,2683:197600,2690:198935,2714:199380,2721:199736,2726:200448,2752:201783,2778:202139,2783:203919,2804:204542,2812:205343,2833:206322,2854:211201,2891:212110,2901:218118,3007:224462,3115:233086,3264:246029,3381:255540,3465:257800,3504:258280,3538
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Ivan Lemelle's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls his mother's upbringing and education

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle remembers his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls his father's personality and career

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls his family's move to Opelousas, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his community in Opelousas, Louisiana, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his community in Opelousas, Louisiana, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls his elementary schools in Opelousas, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his early religious experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle remembers his schools' limited resources

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle remembers his early career and educational aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls his parents' civil rights efforts

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his experiences of racial discrimination in Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls the assassinations of the 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his teenage social activities

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle remembers his high school prom and graduation

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his father's value of educational achievement

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls his housing at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle talks about Gert Town in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls his activities at Xavier University of Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle talks about his experiences with the Student Government Association

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle remembers pledging Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his decision to attend law school

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle reflects upon his experiences at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls the political climate of Xavier University of Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle remembers his start at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his experiences at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle remembers his law school professors

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls his experiences at the New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his internship for the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps at Fort Sam Houston

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls his experience as a student law practitioner in Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle talks about his personal growth

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle remembers passing the bar examination

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls proposing to his wife

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle talks about his wife and children

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle remembers clerking for Judge Robert Collins

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his early career as an attorney

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle talks about the roles of a magistrate judge and city attorney

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls his decision to apply for a magistrate judgeship

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle reflects upon his experiences of sentencing

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls being recommended for a federal district judgeship

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes the federal judicial appointment process

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle remembers his Senate judicial confirmation hearing

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle talks about his chambers at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls delivering his first life sentence

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his preference for federal civil cases

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle talks about the U.S. courts of appeals

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Ivan LemElle recalls a housing discrimination case

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle talks about his cases relevant to Hurricane Katrina

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle remembers Hurricane Katrina

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle talks about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes the Just the Beginning Foundation

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle talks about RNO, Inc.

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes his involvement with the youth of New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle talks about the law profession

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle shares his advice to future generations

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle reflects upon his career

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle talks about his interest in travelling

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle describes how he would like to be remembered and his hopes for youth

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - The Honorable Ivan Lemelle expresses his gratitude for The HistoryMakers

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$6

DAStory

6$1

DATitle
The Honorable Ivan Lemelle recalls his experience as a student law practitioner in Louisiana
The Honorable Ivan Lemelle remembers his Senate judicial confirmation hearing
Transcript
And I'll never forget going to, in my senior year of law school [Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, New Orleans, Louisiana], the first time they had a program that allowed senior year law students, under the supervision of a licensed attorney, could actually go to a (air quotes) real court, and represent a client before a real judge, and in civil and criminal proceedings. And it was a rule in the Louisiana Supreme Court that authorized that to occur. The law schools had to set it up, get it approved, and I was one of the first students of doing that, and going to court, representing a client with a licensed lawyer. And my first time appearing before a judge in a court in that context, it was in Jefferson Parish [Louisiana], where I heard all kind of stories about, and said, okay, I'm going outside of my parish [Orleans Parish, Louisiana] now to Jefferson. And I appear for this proceeding. It was a criminal case. And the client (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) And I'm sorry, what parish is this?$$Jefferson Parish. It's right across the--it's an adjoining parish to New Orleans [Louisiana]. And going to that state court and in the criminal proceeding--I think it was an arraignment where you just go in, and the client pleads guilty or not guilty to the charges and advised of a trial date and some other pretrial proceedings. My supervising lawyer, who was the director of the law clinic, was late for this proceeding. And I'm thinking, okay, he's late. There's a lot of other people in here waiting for their cases to be called. So, nothing to worry about, tell my client it's okay. Not okay. They called my client's case. The client walks to the podium with me. I tell the judge, "Judge, my name is [HistoryMaker] Ivan Lemelle. I'm appearing as a student practitioner pursuant to Louisiana Supreme Court rule--," blah, blah, blah. The judge cuts me off and says, "Did you say student practitioner?" I said, "Yes, Judge." He said, "I don't know what that is. Are you a member of the bar?" I said, "No, Judge." And he says, "Well, you can't appear. You step outside of the counsel area, and I'll deal with your client--," no, "with, with this defendant and without you." I said, "But, Judge, I'm appearing, pursuant to the Louisiana rule--," blah, blah, blah. The judge said, "You didn't hear what I said? I'm going to hold you in contempt if you proceed with it." At that point, you know, I'm, I'm thinking, okay, here's the end of my career about to happen 'cause I'm just stuck there--frozen. And he must have sown--seen that I was not moving. In bust my supervising lawyer that moment, and kind of rescued me from being held in contempt. And he asked me afterwards--the supervising lawyer asked me, he said, "What were you going to do?" I said, "You know, I don't know. I was just standing there trying to represent my client, and trying to advise the judge of this rule, but, you know, it wasn't getting through," so that was scary. But, again, it, it--scary and exciting at the same time. And I guess you could say it was one, one of many moments where I guess I disagreed with the judge, but didn't lose my cool, so to speak, in, in, in being disagreeable to the judge. So, again, all this influenced me to go into litigation, as opposed to corporate law, and, and enjoyed it since.$Continue telling me about your confirmation.$$The living autopsy?$$Yes (laughter).$$Yeah. It, it, it didn't end with the actual nomination. Once I got word that the president, ju- President Clinton [President William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton] was the president in office when I was nominated, he nominated me. I got word that he nominated me and I said, okay, this is downhill from here, right? You got the nomination. You just need Senate hearing and a confirmation by the [U.S.] Senate. Well, lo and behold, a colleague of mine--well, she was Judge Lemmon [Mary Ann Vial Lemmon]. She was up for Senate confirmation, and I was just nominated. She was getting her hearing before the Senate, before me, and the chief judge of the court appeared at her confirmation hearing before the Senate, and told them that she's well qualified. She'd be a great federal judge, but we really don't need her. Our docket, our caseload in his opinion, it didn't justify another judge, even though there was a vacancy. The Senate went on ahead and confirmed, but the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee [U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary] said at the time, and I could understand why--he said the next nominee coming from that court, my court [U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana], would have a problem getting confirmed--or getting a hearing for confirmation if the chief judge of the court still felt that way, or the court still felt that way. Well, guess who is the next nominee coming up? Moi. And it took about, almost a year, I think, for me after nomination to get a confirmation hearing. And the only thing that changed his mind--the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee back then, was the judges in my court said that, look, Judge Lemelle [HistoryMaker Ivan Lemelle] is already here as a magistrate judge, you know, he's going to hit the floor running. Let's bring him onboard and, and they said that another vacancy that we had at the time--there was two vacancies. I was up for one. Nobody is up for the other one yet. And they were going to transfer that vacancy to Baton Rouge, middle district of Baton Rouge [U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana]. So, a combination of factors then, then got me that confirmation hearing. And after all that, that wait, the confirmation hearing lasted maybe--it wasn't even an hour in my estimation. There was four of us, four judicial nomina- nominees that were appearing for the hearing before the Senate. It was myself, a judge from Los Angeles, California and two nominees from Michigan--Detroit, Michigan, I think. And like I said, not even an hour, and that went well. About, I, I say, it was just a week later, it might have been longer or short. I get a call from the senior U.S. senator from Louisiana, then John Breaux. And he says, "Ivan, the Senate has voted by unanimous consent, your nomination--confirmed you, and now, it's just a matter of the president signing it." I was having coffee at a local restaurant when I got the call. And they had trouble reaching me initially. They called my mother [Cecilia Comeaux Lemelle] first in Opelousas [Louisiana], don't know how that happened, then they called me, and I got the word, so that process was interesting. And, again, educational, and I, you know, it, it gave me another appreciation for the position, and what it means 'cause it, it wasn't easy.$$And, and this was in 1998?$$Nineteen ninety-eight [1998], correct, when I was confirmed and sworn in.

The Honorable Richard W. Roberts

United States District Court Judge Richard Warren Roberts was born in New York City. Roberts graduated cum laude with an A.B. degree from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1983, Roberts was a founding member of the Washington chapter of Concerned Black Men, Inc. and served as the deputy general counsel of the organization. In 1978, Roberts received his Masters of International Administration degree from the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. That same year, he received his J.D. degree from Columbia University.

From 1978 until 1982, Roberts served as a trial attorney in the criminal section of the Civil Rights Division for the United States Department of Justice. As a federal prosecutor, Roberts successfully prosecuted several high profile cases, including the killing of two Salt Lake City joggers in a racially motivated sniper attack. The offender, Joseph Paul Franklin, was a serial killer who was suspected of killing as many as twenty people between 1977 and 1980. Roberts’s conviction led to Franklin’s confession of various assassination attempts including magazine publisher Larry Flynt, and the 1980 shooting of Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. Roberts worked in private practice in Washington, D.C. from 1982 to 1986 and as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the southern district of New York from 1986 to 1988. Roberts returned to Washington, D.C. in 1988, and worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office until 1995. In 1990, at the age of thirty-seven, Roberts prosecuted then Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry for violating federal narcotics laws. Mayor Barry had been arrested in a sting operation at the Vista Hotel by the FBI and Washington, D.C. police for crack cocaine use and possession.

After working as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., in 1993, Roberts was appointed by U.S. Attorney Eric Holder as the principal Assistant U.S. Attorney, serving as second-in-command of the office. In 1995, Roberts was named chief of the criminal section of the Civil Rights Division by the United States Justice Department.

Accession Number

A2007.275

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/28/2007 |and| 5/1/2008

Last Name

Roberts

Maker Category
Middle Name

Warren

Schools

Vassar College

Columbia Law School

The School for International Training Graduate Institute

Princeton University

First Name

Richard

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

ROB18

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Keep The Faith.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

6/21/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lasagna (Meat)

Short Description

Federal district court judge and lawyer The Honorable Richard W. Roberts (1953 - ) was named chief of the criminal section of the Civil Rights Division by the United States Justice Department in 1995.

Employment

U.S. Justice Department

Covington and Burling LLP

U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York

U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Richard W. Roberts' interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls his maternal great uncle, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls his maternal great uncle, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers his maternal uncle, Theodore Tynes

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers his paternal uncle, Morris Harrison Tynes

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls his maternal family's musical talent

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his maternal aunt's musical career

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers visiting his aunt in Europe, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers visiting his aunt in Europe, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts talks about the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts talks about his father's high school education

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his father's education at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts talks about his father's graduate studies at New York University

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his parents' relationship and professions

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Richard Roberts talks about his paternal grandfather's photography studio

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Richard Roberts describes how his paternal grandfather learned photography

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Richard Roberts recalls the publication of his paternal grandfather's photographs

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Richard Roberts describes his paternal grandfather's photographs

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Richard Roberts remembers his paternal aunts and uncles

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Richard Roberts describes his parents' careers

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Richard Roberts remembers his father's work ethic

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Richard Roberts describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Richard Roberts describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls moving to Queens, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his neighborhood in Queens, New York, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his neighborhood in Queens, New York, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers his early education

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls being bused to J.H.S. 202 in Queen, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts talks about the importance of multicultural education

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers his father's activism

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his parents' commitment to education

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls the influence of his music teacher

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers his high school biology teacher

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his early aspirations

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers his involvement in sports

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls the semiannual concert at the High School of Music and Art

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers applying to college

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls applying to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his experiences at Vassar College

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls studying at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts talks about his major at Vassar College

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers Angela Davis

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts talks about African liberation movements

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers the School for International Training Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts reflects upon his trip to Africa

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts talks about the Congress of Afrikan People

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls the political tensions in Kenya, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls the political tensions in Kenya, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls his decision to attend Columbia Law School in New York City

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls his orientation at Columbia Law School

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his first year at Columbia Law School

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls developing an interest in public service

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers his third year at Columbia Law School

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Richard W. Roberts' interview, session 2

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls his studies at Columbia Law School in New York City

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his master's degree program

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers joining the U.S. Department of Justice

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls prosecuting Joseph Paul Franklin, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls prosecuting Joseph Paul Franklin, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers the conviction of Joseph Paul Franklin

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls prosecuting slavery cases, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls prosecuting slavery cases, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers prosecuting Robert Allan Carr, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers prosecuting Robert Allan Carr, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers his first case as a prosecutor

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes the caseload of the U.S. Department of Justice

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls joining the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls his decision to return to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls the case against Mayor Marion Barry, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls the case against Mayor Marion Barry, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes the undercover operation against Mayor Marion Barry

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers prosecuting Mayor Marion Barry

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts talks about Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls leading the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls investigating discrimination in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his role in the Rodney King case

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls his appointment as a federal judge

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts remembers a campaign finance fraud case

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls a sexual harassment case in the D.C. Department of Corrections, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls a sexual harassment case in the D.C. Department of Corrections, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts talks about the success rate of employment discrimination cases

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his judicial philosophy

Tape: 10 Story: 10 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 10 Story: 11 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts reflects upon his life

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes his judicial role models

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts reflects upon his family, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts reflects upon his family, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - The Honorable Richard W. Roberts describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$2

DATape

3$8

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
The Honorable Richard Roberts talks about his paternal grandfather's photography studio
The Honorable Richard W. Roberts recalls prosecuting Joseph Paul Franklin, pt. 1
Transcript
Did you want to tell the story about your grandfather?$$Yes. My grand- my father's father was named Richard Samuel Roberts. His family originally was from, from Fernandina, Florida [Fernandina Beach, Florida], where my Dad [Beverly Roberts] was born. But in Fernandina, he was the custodian of the post office [U.S. Post Office Department; U.S. Postal Service] at that time. When he and my grandmother [Wilhelmina Williams Roberts] decided, however, to move to Columbia, South Carolina, roughly around 1920, he also landed a job as the custodian for the federal courthouse in the federal building in Columbia, South Carolina. He held that job during the day shift. I believe he started around four [o'clock] in the morning and stayed until about twelve noon. But his real passion was photography. He had a photographic studio that he ran in the half-block long, black business district of Columbia, South Carolina at that time. So, in the afternoons, he'd go down to that photographic studio where he would engage in photography, and principally shoot portrait photographs of many people who wanted to have some record of what they looked like or what they did, or have photographs of themselves or the children, or their possessions that they wanted to have recorded in photography. His tagline for his studio was "We will make a true likeness of you. If you like the way you look, it'll be a true likeness that you will see in your pictures. If there's something about the way you look that you don't like, we will make sure that we can fix it, so that it's, nevertheless, a true likeness that you enjoy." That was his passion. He did principally portrait photography, but he is also hired to take photographs of events--graduations, funerals, and other things of that nature. Oftentimes, when young babies died, and the infant mortality rate was much higher then than it is now, parents would want to have something to remember their babies by. So, they would hire a photographer to come take pictures of the baby in the baby's funeral garb or funeral dress. So, there, it's interesting that in the collection of his photographs, you will see that with some frequency. But he ran his studio from 1920 through 1936. His wife, my grandmother, was a constant helper, although she was, again, a homemaker rearing five children. She would often come down to the studio in the afternoon with fresh baked bread, or some lunch, or a hot meal for him to eat there, assist when she could when customers were coming into the studio. So, it was very much a partnership in that regard, but the craft and the artistry was principally his.$Talk about a couple of cases. I know there's, the one that I know about here is the case of Joseph Paul Franklin, shooting two black joggers in Salt Lake City [Utah], that this guy has a long history--well, just tell us about this case.$$In the, 1980 or so, we had gotten the report that two black teen- teenage joggers, who had been jogging with two white female joggers, in a city park in Utah, had been shot and killed by a sniper. This was on the heels of a trail of other shootings that had occurred across the country. When the investigation was all completed, and we had identified Joseph Paul Franklin as the person who was responsible for the Utah shooting, it turned out he had also been involved in shootings of many other black people and biracial couples throughout the United States. He also had been identified as having shot Vernon Jordan [HistoryMaker Vernon E. Jordan, Jr.], who was, at the time, the president of the Urban League [National Urban League]. Vernon Jordan had been attending a meeting of his board in Fort Wayne, I believe, Indiana, and he had given a ride to one of his board members who happened to be a white female back to her lodging. And when Franklin, who was in the area, saw the two of them emerge from his car, Franklin apparently reacted the same way he did when seeing people of multiple races together. He allegedly pulled out a .30-06 rifle or a .30-30 rifle, held it up, and fired into Vernon Jordan's back. It felled him and required him to be hospitalized. Happily, Jordan recovered, and the rest of his story is history. He's done quite well since then. But I've seen Vernon Jordan, and he has told me that, that shooting blew a hole in his back the size of my fist, and that, but for the grace of God, the hole was just to the side of his spinal column. And although it did a quite a bit of damage to him internally, it did not sever his spinal cord, so he's able, thankfully, to be with us today, and in full shape. But in any event, when the black joggers in Utah were felled by Franklin's bullets, the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] undertook a massive investigation to try to track down all the leads that they could. And I remember having been assigned this case when it was simply a newspaper article that we saw, and said, "This sounds like it may be a criminal civil rights violation. Let's have somebody monitor this," and I was the one to monitor it. I will never forget that on the day of the debate between Jimmy Carter [President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.] and Ronald Reagan [Ronald Wilson Reagan], the presidential debate where Jimmy Carter was the incumbent running for reelection, Ronald Reagan was the Republican opponent. I was sitting in front of my television ready to take in the debate. A flash came across the bottom of the screen, one of those news alerts. It said that Joseph Paul Franklin had been arrested at a blood bank in Florida--tune in at eleven [o'clock] for more details. Well, that was the first that I learned that the suspect that we had been trailing all over the country, because he was running from the authorities, and changing his appearance, and trying to adopt disguises, and ditching cars, and shifting locations, had been captured. I knew at that point that I would not have the luxury of sitting back and seeing the debate, that I'd have to go straight into the office and get on top of developments, and be prepared to go out to Utah to pursue the grand jury investigation. And that is what happened. When we got all the leads together, and got all the evidence together, we were able to have an indictment against him for committing two criminal civil rights violations with death resulting. We had urged the local district attorney to go first since the greater interest was lodged there in Utah, and we certainly wanted to be able to yield to them to go first. They decided to have the federal case go first and we stepped up.

The Honorable Deborah A. Batts

U.S. District Court Judge Deborah A. Batts was born on April 13, 1947 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She earned her B.A. degree in government from Radcliffe College in 1969 and attended Harvard Law School, where she earned her J.D. degree in 1972. Batts began her legal career clerking for Judge Lawrence W. Pierce, a U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York. The next year, Batts became an associate in New York City at the corporate law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

In 1979, Batts became the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in the Criminal Division. She worked for the district until 1984 when she joined the faculty at the Fordham University School of Law. Batts was the first African American member of the faculty and later became a tenured Associate Professor of Law.

In 1990, Batts became a commissioner on the New York Law Review Commission. That same year, she served as Special Associate Counsel to the Department of Investigation of the City of New York. In 1994, Batts was nominated by President Clinton as a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York. After her confirmation by the United States Senate, she was sworn into the office.

As a federal judge, Batts has overseen a variety of high-profile cases and hearings. In 1999, she oversaw the indictment of Cheng Yong Wang and Xingqi Fu, charged with attempting to sell the organs of executed Chinese prisoners. Batts granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the indictment. In 2001, Batts wrote an Opinion resolving the issues of the sentencing hearing of al-Qaeda co-founder Mamdouh Mahmud Salim for the stabbing of a prison guard while Salim awaited trial in the case of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. Batts was also the judge in a widely publicized 2006 case against EPA Chief Christine Todd Whitman. Whitman was charged for her failure to adequately warn New Yorkers of the health risks involved in returning to their homes after the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Batts is an active member of the Bar Association of the City of New York, the Metropolitan Black Bar Association and the Lesbian and Gay Law Association of Greater New York. In 1998, she received an honorary degree from the City University of New York School of Law.

Batts was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 15, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.239

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/15/2007 |and| 9/20/2007

Last Name

Batts

Maker Category
Middle Name

A.

Schools

Philadelphia High School for Girls

St Rose Of Lima Elem School

Radcliffe College

Harvard Law School

St. Carthage School

First Name

Deborah

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

BAT08

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Disney World

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

4/13/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Sushi

Short Description

Federal district court judge The Honorable Deborah A. Batts (1947 - ) served as a U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York.

Employment

U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District Court of New York

Fordham University School of Law

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Justice Lawrence W. Pierce

Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

National Institute for Trial Advocacy

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Deborah A. Batts' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts talks about how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls her parents' marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her father's military service

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers her home life

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Deborah Batts talks about her sister, Mercedes Ellington

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Deborah Batts remembers celebrating the holidays

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Deborah Batts describes her mother's cooking, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Deborah Batts describes her mother's cooking, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Deborah Batts remembers her birthday celebrations

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Deborah Batts describes her relationship with her sisters

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Deborah Batts describes her home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Deborah Batts recalls her community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes the sights and smells of her childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls the music of her childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls learning to dance with her sister, Mercedes Ellington

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her early education

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts talks about her educational experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls her academic interests

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers her early aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers the Philadelphia High School for Girls

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her relationship with the Catholic church

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls her discontentment with the Catholic church

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts talks about the racial discrimination in the Catholic church

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls her experiences at the Philadelphia High School for Girls

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers her interest in science

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts talks about the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her decision to attend Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls her reservations about Radcliffe College

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers her arrival at Radcliffe College

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers her peers at Radcliffe College

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls studying government at Radcliffe College

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls obtaining a clerkship with Lawrence W. Pierce

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls her role in the student government

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers applying to Harvard Law School

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls her peers at Harvard Law School

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts talks about her activities at Radcliffe College

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers meeting her first husband

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls her first year at Harvard Law School

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls studying under Derrick A. Bell, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers the Harvard Civil Rights Civil Liberties Law Review

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers the black women at Harvard Law School

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls her experiences at Cravath, Swaine and Moore, LLP

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes law firm of Cravath, Swaine and Moore LLP

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts reflects upon her clerkship with Lawrence W. Pierce, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts reflects upon her clerkship with Lawrence W. Pierce, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls serving as an assistant U.S. attorney

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers her transition to academia

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls teaching at the Fordham University School of Law in New York City

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers her judicial appointment, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers her judicial appointment, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls her judicial confirmation hearings

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts talks about being called a judicial activist

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her role as a federal judge

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts talks about federal sentencing guidelines

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her judicial deliberation process

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes the impact of her sexual orientation on her career

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her innovations in jury selection

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts talks about the importance of jury duty

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her judicial case load

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers her high profile cases

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes the role of the district courts

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers a lesson from her father

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls the New York State Law Revision Commission

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts recalls the investigation of Mayor David N. Dinkins

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her human rights work in Ghana

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her women's rights initiative in Ghana

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her portrait at Harvard Law School, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her portrait at Harvard Law School, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts talks about the impact of her portrait on law students

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her hopes for the judiciary

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts talks about her organizational involvement

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her role in the Federal Bar Council American Inn of Court

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts describes her role at the City University of New York School of Law

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts reflects upon her career

Tape: 10 Story: 10 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts reflects upon her life

Tape: 10 Story: 11 - The Honorable Deborah A. Batts reflects upon her legacy

DASession

2$2

DATape

8$8

DAStory

1$2

DATitle
The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers her judicial appointment, pt. 1
The Honorable Deborah A. Batts remembers her judicial appointment, pt. 2
Transcript
We were discussing the adjunct professors at, at Fordham [Fordham University School of Law, New York, New York] and one that I was really in awe of was George Bundy Smith who eventually became a judge on the Court of Appeals, New York's Court of Appeals [New York Court of Appeals], which is the highest state court. Another African American adjunct professor was Cornelius Blackshear who was a federal bankruptcy judge. And in terms of the full-time faculty, before I left Fordham to go on the bench, Fordham had hired two wonderful and very different professors. One was Professor Terry Smith and one was Professor Nick Johnson [Nicholas Johnson]. And since that time, Fordham has hired and tenured many professors of color, not only African American but Latino as well.$$How did you become a judge?$$This is probably not the normal path to becoming a judge. I was very happy teaching at Fordham and enjoying the camaraderie and collegiality of my fellow professors. And one day I got a telephone call from someone who introduced themselves and said that they were on Senator Moynihan's [Daniel Patrick Moynihan] judicial screening panel. And I thought that it was one of my fellow professors playing a joke. So I was trying to figure out whose voice was this, you know, and I assume, I assumed that they had disguised it, and I, I just couldn't, couldn't get it. So then I started listening to what the person was saying. And one of the, he said that, "You have come highly recommended, that many people who have worked with you, you know, have put your name forward. And so have you ever thought of being a judge?" And I, I, I quipped that well, you understand as a professor that what we teach essentially are judicial opinions. Many of them are circuit court or supreme court opinions but one of the things that I always regret is that there doesn't seem to be enough factual information or background before getting into a discussion of the law. And so I would say to myself and sometimes to my students, that I, you know, "If I were a judge I could write a better opinion than that," but that's the only context in which it, it, you know, it had crossed my mind. And then he said, "Well would you consider it and may we send you an application?" And the next day I got a FedEx-ed application, and so I realized this may not be the joke that I thought it was. So I filled it out. I was interviewed by the committee. My name was one of several that they put forward to Senator Moynihan. I had the opportunity to go down to Washington [D.C.] and meet with Senator Moynihan. And I recall getting into a very lively discussion about the Westway project, the highway, and, you know, it got somewhat animated. And Senator Moynihan was saying, "Now listen Batts [HistoryMaker Deborah A. Batts]," and I was saying, "But this and that," and then in the middle, he said, "I think that you'd make a fine federal judge." And so then he put my name forward to then President Bush, forty-one [President George Herbert Walker Bush], and I started through the process with his [U.S.] Department of Justice being interviewed.$I went down to be interviewed by his justice department [U.S. Department of Justice] a lot. I probably saw everyone in the group who was involved. I, I know for instance that I saw--one of the people who interviewed me was John Roberts who is now the chief justice of the [U.S.] Supreme Court. Another person is currently I think a dean at Pepperdine [Pepperdine University, Malibu, California]. He was the investigator for the Clinton [President William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton], I'm having trouble remembering his name, it's, I should remember it. He was, he is well known and hopefully his name will come to me, but he interviewed me as well and other people, and I had very enjoyable meetings or discussions with everybody that I met. And then when I went at, when it was over I would, I would hear nothing. And so Senator Moynihan [Daniel Patrick Moynihan] on my behalf sought, you know, to see well, what's going on here. And I think the response that he was given, which was then conveyed to me, is that, "We think that Professor Batts [HistoryMaker Deborah A. Batts] is a very intelligent, very nice person but her idea of what a judge should be is not our idea of what a judge should be." So the candidacy didn't go anywhere during that Bush's [President George Herbert Walker Bush] administration. And then when President Clinton came, Senator Moynihan dutifully resubmitted my name. This time I went down to meet with the Department of Justice of President Clinton. And they were extremely supportive and helpful. And I met with them several times as well but in this instance, it was because they wanted to make sure that I would feel very comfortable during my confirmation hearings in the [U.S.] Senate, and so they, you know, even helped to vet me as the expression was, to prepare me for these things. And I'm eternally grateful to them for, for their assistance. And it must have worked because I'm on the bench. The interesting thing is that at the Senate confirmation hearing, the only senator who showed up was Howard Metzenbaum from Ohio and he asked very, very softball questions. And I think perhaps the hardest question he asked me is, "Why would you want to leave your, being a professor to become a judge when, you know, it'll be so much harder in terms of work?" And, and I, I believe I responded to him, "My, my colleagues would be very interested to know that, that you think that being a judge requires more work than being a professor." And then we just went on from there. And I was nominated, I was confirmed, the, the senate judiciary committee [U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary] passed me and then it went on to the full Sent- Senate. I was confirmed in May of 1994 and I came on the bench in June of 1994. In fact, the day I was inducted or--was the day, was a day in Gay Pride Week in New York [New York].

The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr.

Andrew Leon Thomas Jefferson, Jr. was born on August 19, 1934, in Dallas, Texas, to Bertha Jefferson and Andrew Jefferson, Sr. After Jefferson and his family moved to Houston, Texas, in 1936, he attended Jack Yates High School which he graduated from in 1952. Jefferson received his B.A. degree from Texas Southern University in 1956, and his J.D. degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1959.

During his first year out of law school, 1960, Jefferson worked as a partner for Washington & Jefferson Attorneys at Law. In 1962, Jefferson worked as an assistant criminal district attorney for San Antonio County, and later in the year served as the chief assistant to the U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Texas.

In 1968, Jefferson was hired as a trial and labor relations counsel for Humble Oil & Refinery Company, which was renamed Exxon Corporation. From 1970 to 1973, Jefferson presided as a judge for the Harris County Family District Courts in conjunction with the Harris County Domestic Relations Office, before serving as a judge for the 208th District Court in Harris County until 1975.

In 1975, Jefferson worked in private practice with Jefferson, Sherman & Mims. During this time, Jefferson became the president of the Nu Boule’ chapter of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, an association considered to be the first African American Greek letter organization. Between 1986 and 1987, Jefferson served on the Presidential Search Committee of Texas Southern University and the Merit Selection of Judges Committee. In 1996, Jefferson became a member of the International Society of Barristers, a society of outstanding trial lawyers chosen by their peers on the basis of excellence and integrity in advocacy.

In 2001, the Andrew L. Jefferson Endowment for Trial Advocacy was established at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston, Texas. The endowment seeks to preserve the jury trial in order to consider issues of ethics and excellence in advocacy and the role of litigation in society. Jefferson was a member of numerous professional and civic organizations including the American Bar Association, the Houston Lawyers Association, the Houston Area Urban League and the NAACP.

Jefferson passed away on December 8, 2008 at the age of 74.

Accession Number

A2007.231

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/10/2007

Last Name

Jefferson

Maker Category
Middle Name

Leon

Schools

Frederick Douglass Elementary School

Jack Yates High School

Texas Southern University

University of Texas at Austin School of Law

First Name

Andrew

Birth City, State, Country

Dallas

HM ID

JEF03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Pebble Beach, California

Favorite Quote

If You Can't Explain It To Your Mama, Don't Do It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

8/19/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Houston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue (Ribs)

Death Date

12/8/2008

Short Description

Federal district court judge and trial lawyer The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. (1934 - 2008 ) served for the 208th District Court in Harris County, Texas, until 1975. He was also the the president of the Nu Boule’ chapter of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. In honor of his contributions to the legal profession, the Andrew L. Jefferson Endowment for Trial Advocacy was established at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston, Texas.

Employment

Washington and Jefferson, Attorneys at Law

Bexar (San Antonio) County

The Western District of Texas

Humble Oil and Refining Company

Court of Domestic Relations in Harris County

208th District Court in Harris County

Jefferson Sherman and Mims

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes how his parents met and their education

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his likeness to his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. recalls his childhood in Houston, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. talks about his early role models

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes the role of religion in his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. recalls his early knowledge of African American history

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. remembers his influential teachers

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes the entertainment of his youth

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. remembers Jack Yates High School in Houston, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his early work experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 18 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. recalls his decision to attend Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. remembers his interest in architecture

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. talks about John S. Chase

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his mentors at Texas Southern University

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. remembers Barbara Jordan

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. recalls his employment during college

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. recalls his decision to pursue a law career

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes the Sweatt v. Painter decision

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his ink spot painting

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his experience at Texas Southern University

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. remembers the University of Texas at Austin School of Law

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his experiences of discrimination at the University of Texas, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his experiences of discrimination at the University of Texas, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. recalls his law professors and courses

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his graduation from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. remembers Washington and Jefferson, Attorneys at Law

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. recalls becoming an assistant district attorney

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his early law career

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his work with the Freedom Riders

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. talks about the Black Panther Party in Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. remembers Ovide Duncantell

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes the changes in the U.S Department of Justice

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. recalls his experiences of discrimination at the district attorney's office

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. recalls becoming the chief assistant U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. recalls his recruitment to Humble Oil and Refining Company

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. remembers working at Humble Oil and Refinery Company

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. remembers the Petroleum Club in Houston, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. recalls joining the Harris County Family District Court

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his most notable legal decisions

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes the black community's relationship with the police in Houston, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. recalls his first election as a judge

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. recalls his consideration of running for mayor

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his private legal casework

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his legal philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. reflects upon his life

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. talks about his involvement with Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

18$12

DATitle
The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. recalls his decision to attend Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas
The Honorable Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr. remembers the Petroleum Club in Houston, Texas
Transcript
So when it came close to graduation time had you--was your path laid out for you, did you know you were going to Texas Southern [Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas]?$$No, it was kind of an awkward situation as it developed. Because, I'd had these conversations with my friend Reverend Moore [John D. Moore]. And I had--something he had said somewhere along the way that led me to believe he was gonna see to it that I went to Yale [Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut]. And I had no idea what the mechanics were, or could be for that arrangement. But I had my heart set on that. And then it came time to go to college, nobody was saying anything about Yale. And I had all these little weekend jobs, you know, cutting grass, and painting houses, and painting the church [Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ, Houston, Texas] on the weekends, and all of that but I didn't have any real, you know, resources accumulated to pay any college tuition, or even transportation for that matter. And that's important as I'll demonstrate in a minute. So, the closer September came, the more concerned I became about where I was going to school. And at some point I broached the subject with Reverend Moore, and I don't know what he said but he made it clear that I, well was not going to Yale. But we had a member of the church, Mrs. Pearl Saunders [ph.], who was just a wonderful lady. And she--I guess Reverend Moore must've persuaded her--however it came about she loaned me seventy-five dollars to pay my tuition at Texas Southern.$I get a call one day from a friend of mine who was a member of the Petroleum Club [Houston, Texas]. Petroleum Club is, you know, the drinking and dancing club located on the top of the Humble [Humble Oil and Refining Company; Exxon Company, U.S.A.] building, and the, the guy who called me was Pete Schlumberger [Pierre Schlumberger], Pete of the Schlumberger family, and he was piping hot, he said, "Jeff [HistoryMaker Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr.]." I said, "What's up, Pete?" He said, "I had a lawyer visiting with me from Michigan the other day and he happened to be an African American and so I took him to lunch at the Petroleum Club and they wouldn't let us go to the grill. They ushered us off to a little private room," and he says, "I'm so pissed off about it, I don't know what to do." I said "Well, what do you wanna do about it?" He said, "Well you work for Humble," and he said, "I want to invite you to lunch and see if they'll treat you the same way they treated my friend from Michigan." I said, "Well, let's give it a shot." I--I don't supposed I'd been invited by anybody in the company up until that time to go. I might've been there at some private room meeting type arrangement. Anyway, Pete and I went and they wouldn't let us on the floor, and I came back to my office boy, and I wrote the damage letter. I said, look you people are put me in this situation and, and, and now you put me in a situation where I've been embarrassed because my employer won't let me eat lunch in my employer's cloth--club and that's not acceptable. Well, all hell broke loose, cause I'm one of the country--company lawyers, I mean, I'm just not, you know, anybody so, the letter goes to the, the manager of the employer relations department. A guy name Ed Dekorsha [ph.] and Ed calls me in the next couple of days and he said, "I think we worked this thing out. I've been in contact with the board of directors." And part of the problem is that, Humble didn't own the Petroleum Club, the club was a separate entity. Humble owned the building. The entity leased the space from the Humble Company. Part of the rent, the compensation for using this space was fifty memberships that were parceled out amongst various Humble employees, plus one special membership that was available for anybody with--at a certain level in the corporation you could just sign off on that special account with no questions asked and--but the club was actually run by a bunch of East Texas oil men and Ed was calling to tell me that he'd smooth the waters and--so he and I was going to lunch on--in the grill the next couple of days, so this is the manager of the employees' relations firm for the whole company, so he and I hit the door in the grill, and boy the teds--heads were turning and the tongues were wagging, so it went well, no problem, you know, and of course the waiters and everybody was just tickled to death to take care of it (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Well, the waiters were black, right? At the Petro club.$$Yeah. To take care of it, yeah, to take care of us and the next night or two Ed called me back and said, "Well, let's go to dinner in the dining room," which is a different room on the other end up on, so, I said, "Okay, let's, let's do it" (laughter) so we go to the dining room and Ed called me in the next couple of days and said, "I got a call." I said--he said (laughter) I said, "What was the call about?" He said, "They said don't rub it in our faces," (laughter). So that's how we turned that corner (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) (Laughter) Okay. We have to stop--

The Honorable Myron Thompson

Federal District Court Judge Myron Herbert Thompson was born on January 7, 1947 in Tuskegee, Alabama to Lawrence and Lillian Thompson. At age two, Thompson contracted polio and spent much of his time alone, finding solace in jazz and classical music. He attended Tuskegee Institute High School where he was named class salutatorian in 1965. Thompson received his B.A. degree in political science from Yale University in 1969 and his J.D. degree from Yale Law School in 1972.

After graduation, Thompson became the first African American Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alabama. He served in this position for two years before going into private practice in Dothan, Alabama. Thompson’s firm handled labor law, civil rights, school desegregation, sex discrimination and First Amendment cases.

President Jimmy Carter nominated Thompson to the bench of the United States District Court, Middle District of Alabama. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and received his appointment in September of 1980. At age thirty-three, he was the youngest member of the bench. Thompson served as Chief Justice from 1991 to 1998.

Thompson presides over the same court room where many landmark civil rights cases were argued and decided. He had the court restored to stand as a testament to history. Thompson also made national headlines when he ordered Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the State of Alabama’s courthouse. He remains as much of an active legal scholar as his position permits, often calling for the executive and legislative branches to accept more responsibility for constitutional oversight that too often is left as the responsibility of judges. Thompson has served on the bench for twenty-seven years.

Myron Thompson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 20, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.100

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/20/2007

Last Name

Thompson

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Tuskegee Institute High School

Tuskegee Institute Middle School

Yale University

Yale Law School

First Name

Myron

Birth City, State, Country

Tuskegee

HM ID

THO13

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mexico City, Mexico

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Alabama

Birth Date

1/7/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Montgomery

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Federal district court judge The Honorable Myron Thompson (1947 - ) became the first African American Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alabama. President Jimmy Carter nominated Thompson to the bench of the United States District Court, Middle District of Alabama; he served as Chief Justice from 1991 to 1998.

Employment

U.S. Judiciary

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:15102,256:16446,278:28609,364:29241,373:33744,474:39827,613:40301,621:53580,760:56730,828:57220,835:57640,843:62718,911:66518,998:68950,1042:69710,1054:77766,1204:78298,1213:79058,1225:82478,1287:84606,1320:84986,1326:85594,1339:86050,1347:86962,1358:87874,1373:88254,1379:113218,1686:113631,1695:118351,1818:119177,1833:119944,1845:120357,1853:132137,1975:132492,1980:132989,2026:134977,2067:135332,2072:158323,2283:167592,2457:179290,2575$0,0:5684,101:6054,107:7164,141:8126,155:10790,202:11160,208:13898,253:14342,260:16488,298:17080,307:17746,322:20706,379:21372,391:27876,413:28492,421:29020,428:32628,484:33244,492:33860,499:38876,585:48116,756:64281,888:64686,894:65415,910:66468,930:67035,938:68250,964:68898,978:69546,986:70599,1011:70923,1016:71247,1021:78900,1099:80391,1137:82379,1173:97450,1381:97922,1392:98217,1398:98807,1413:99043,1418:99928,1440:100695,1456:109900,1620
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Myron Thompson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Myron Thompson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Myron Thompson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Myron Thompson talks about his father's occupations and interests

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Myron Thompson describes his maternal grandparents, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Myron Thompson describes his maternal grandparents, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Myron Thompson remembers his maternal step-grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Myron Thompson describes his mother's experience at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Myron Thompson shares his experience contracting polio in 1949

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Myron Thompson remembers being treated for polio at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Myron Thompson describes the impact that polio had on his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Myron Thompson shares the lessons he learned from his mother, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Myron Thompson shares the lessons he learned from his mother, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Myron Thompson talks about his step-father and the Butler Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Myron Thompson describes the impact of moving from the Tuskegee Institute to the Butler Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Myron Thompson recalls his experience riding on the bus to Tuskegee Institute High School

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Myron Thompson describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Myron Thompson talks about his brother, Lawrence Thompson, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Myron Thompson describes the activities he participated in with the group Jack and Jill

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Myron Thompson describes his experience at Tuskegee Institute High School, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Myron Thompson describes his experience at Tuskegee Institute High School, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Myron Thompson reflects on his lack of Civil Rights involvement in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Myron Thompson recalls visiting colleges and his decision to attend Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Myron Thompson describes adjusting to the environment of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Myron Thompson reflects on his time at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Myron Thompson describes his introduction to culture at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Myron Thompson reflects on his lack of political involvement at Yale Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Myron Thompson recalls becoming involved with the trial of Black Panther Bobby Seale

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Myron Thompson recalls becoming the Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Myron Thompson describes his experience in private law practice in Dothan, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Myron Thompson recalls working with Federal District Court Judge Frank Minis Johnson, Jr., pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Myron Thompson recalls working with Federal District Court Judge Frank Minis Johnson, Jr., pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Myron Thompson recalls his appointment as a Federal District Court Judge, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Myron Thompson recalls his appointment as a Federal District Court Judge, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Myron Thompson reflects on becoming a Federal District Court Judge

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Myron Thompson recalls his first decision, in a case of use of deadly force by a police officer

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Myron Thompson describes a his judicial decision on the special education system in Alabama

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Myron Thompson recalls ordering Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Myron Thompson talks about some of the discrimination cases he decided as a Federal District Court Judge in Alabama

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Myron Thompson describes his prison and voting rights cases

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Myron Thompson talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Myron Thompson shares his message for future generations

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Myron Thompson reflects upon his lack of regrets and his plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Myron Thompson talks about his relationship with other judges and balancing his work and home life

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Myron Thompson reflects upon his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

3$3

DATitle
Myron Thompson recalls becoming involved with the trial of Black Panther Bobby Seale
Myron Thompson recalls his first decision, in a case of use of deadly force by a police officer
Transcript
But when I got to law school and there was this strong impact of my step-mother and my, I mean, my step-father [Kenneth Buford] and my mother, and the war breaking out, the war movement being at its real height. I remember the [Robert George] Bobby Seale trial and that was my first real involvement on a public level. The Bobby Seale trial, I don't know if you remember that, was when he was a Black Panther and he was tried in New Haven [Connecticut] for murder and the President of Yale [University in New Haven, Connecticut] named Kingman Brewster, had questioned whether he could get a fair trial before a jury in Connecticut, particular for this may--might be an all-white jury. And a lot of editorials were written attacking Kingman Brewster for his comments and indeed Spiro Agnew, who was then Vice President of the United States, with [President Richard M.] Nixon had attacked Kingman Brewster for sort of saying, questioning whether Bobby Seale could get a fair trial. And I wrote a letter to the Montgomery Advertiser here in Montgomery, Alabama, and I, and I remember prefacing it by saying that I am an Alabamian, I didn't say that I was black, I just said I'm an Alabamian and I think that the question of whether a black person can get a fair trial is an appropriate question to ask. And I remember after writing that letter, which they published in a local paper here coming from someone at Yale, my mother [Lillian Glanton Thompson Buford] said that several FBI agents came to see her and said that they had seen the letter, now you have to remember that my mother and I had different last names and, as far as she knew, they did not know that I was her son, and that was really the beginning of my sensitivity of what, what was going on in the world and I guess that's when I admitted, sort of metaphorically speaking, I started looking up from the pages of the book and then decided, you know, what did I want to do with my life, I'd gone to work on Wall Street [New York City, New York], I'd--in the summers, I knew what it was like to be a Wall Street lawyer and then I decided I wanted to do Civil Rights work and to come back to Alabama and to devote my life to, to doing Civil Rights work in Alabama. And I will say this in my behalf, and I'm somewhat proud of it, I was a late bloomer in the sense that I was the one who woke up late, but I was the only one who took--who ran the whole course. (Laughter)$$Okay.$$Many of my friends who were out their demonstrating did not come back to Alabama and do what I did.$$Right, you're exactly right.$It was a promised land, but it was hard. And I--getting a little bit into the judging, I remember my first decision [Ayler v. Hopper, 1981], controversial decision dealt with deadly force and I was the first judge in Alabama to have declared the use of deadly force without probable cause, that is shooting someone like a fleeing felon without probable cause to believe he was a danger, was unconstitutional, and several people told me I invited, I invented that out of whole cloth. Several judges told me that I probably would be reversed on appeal and I remember, this gets back to Judge Johnson, Frank [Minis] Johnson [Jr.] met me in the hall one day and he says, "Myron, he says be prepared to get reversed," but he says, you're right, your ruling is right, but if anything I can do as an appellate judge, I'm gonna make sure that you're ultimately affirmed." And a year after, two years later, after my decision went up in another case, that ended up, same decision, the Supreme Court came down with the very same decision I came down with and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed me in my case and went out of their way to say that the district judge is to be praised for predicting that the law, how the law was going to become out here. But I sweated, and it was rough, but it was definitely worth it. And what we obviously--the undercurrent here is we know who's being shot, these were black defendants who were fleeing and they were routinely being shot whether they posed a danger to anyone or not, you know, the police would just shoot you, and they can't do that. And I said, it's wrong, you just can't do it.