The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

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

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/29/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New Orleans

Country

USA

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.

Michele Coleman Mayes

Michele Coleman Mayes was born on July 9, 1949 in Los Angeles, California to Geraldine and Wilbert Coleman. Mayes graduated from MacKinzie High School in Detroit, Michigan in 1967. She received her B.A. degree from the University of Michigan in 1971 and her J.D. degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1974.

Mayes taught as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois for two years and then as an Adjunct Professor of Civil Trial Advocacy at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan from 1981 to 1987. Mayes served in the United States Department of Justice from 1976 to 1982 as Assistant United States Attorney in Detroit and Brooklyn. Mayes eventually assumed the role of Chief of the Civil Division in Detroit. In 1982, Mayes entered the corporate sector as managing attorney of the Burroughs Corporation. Her career continued to evolve as the Burroughs Corporation and the Sperry Corporation merged, creating Unisys Corporation, for which she was appointed staff vice president and associate general counsel for Worldwide Litigation. In 1992, Mayes joined the Colgate-Palmolive Company as vice president and associate general counsel. One year later, she was promoted to vice president of Human Resources and their Legal Division for North America. In May 2001, Mayes was promoted to vice president, legal and assistant secretary, and elected a corporate officer. Two years later, she accepted the position of senior vice president and general counsel at Pitney Bowes. In 2007, Mayes was named vice president and general counsel of The Allstate Corporation and senior vice president and general counsel for Allstate Insurance Company.

Mayes is the recipient of numerous awards, including The Margaret Brent Award and
The Trailblazer Award. She was also named one of America's top black lawyers by Black Enterprise Magazine in 2003.

Mayes was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 6, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.126

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/6/2008 |and| 12/19/2008

Last Name

Mayes

Maker Category
Marital Status

divorced

Middle Name

Coleman

Occupation
Schools

MacKinzie High School

Thirkell Elementary School

Macculloch Elementary School

Tappan Junior High School

University of Michigan

University of Michigan Law School

First Name

Michele

Birth City, State, Country

Los Angeles

HM ID

MAY04

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

Be Yourself.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/9/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Popcorn

Short Description

Corporate lawyer Michele Coleman Mayes (1949 - ) was appointed as vice president and general counsel of The Allstate Corporation, and senior vice president and general counsel for the Allstate Insurance Company.

Employment

Illinois State University

U.S. Attorney's office, Detroit

Unisys Corporation

Colgate Palmolive Company

Pitney Bowes, Inc.

Allstate Insurance

Favorite Color

Amber

Timing Pairs
0,0:2816,49:4048,84:5456,108:12776,202:15218,278:18914,377:19310,384:20102,408:20366,413:21554,486:24016,509:24534,519:25570,541:28012,599:28900,621:31046,672:31564,687:32674,728:33932,764:36226,830:38964,872:39334,878:40296,894:40666,900:41110,907:52496,1048:55103,1103:60238,1206:60712,1213:68762,1324:69278,1331:71514,1369:72288,1379:72890,1384:73234,1389:86510,1590:89030,1651:90150,1674:91970,1739:97534,1803:98392,1815:98782,1822:99484,1833:101434,1874:101746,1879:102214,1939:102994,1950:103618,1963:104788,1992:108630,2009:109246,2019:109862,2030:111479,2057:111787,2062:114710,2102:116600,2138:116950,2144:117580,2154:119330,2198:136690,2507:140305,2559:142685,2592:149765,2702:150938,2735:156596,2903:157217,2965:157493,2970:157976,2978:158252,2983:164134,3032:164652,3040:166280,3071:174864,3238:175382,3282:182160,3401$0,0:2970,67:5890,84:7120,105:7530,111:8268,121:9990,153:10482,160:10892,167:21102,319:22702,351:25966,449:29550,548:34657,580:35196,589:36428,609:37352,658:37891,666:44744,861:59454,1036:60174,1051:63342,1117:63630,1122:66006,1171:77843,1367:84141,1506:84476,1512:93465,1600:94374,1610:109257,1833:117872,1990:118538,2002:119870,2031:120610,2044:133832,2265:134142,2272:138880,2358:140070,2392:140700,2404:145787,2465:146232,2471:151900,2546:152316,2557:155174,2588:162960,2711:163939,2728:164918,2763:171040,2868:172384,2904:172776,2912:174568,2955:175296,2972:176360,3010:177312,3040:179104,3102:179328,3107:179664,3114:187928,3229:193029,3309:194202,3329:194478,3334:195306,3357:195582,3363:197031,3392:197652,3402:198204,3411:207530,3588:207826,3594:217064,3770:221892,3903:222389,3911:223667,3939:225655,4004:226862,4040:227146,4045:228140,4062:235970,4121:241852,4221:242554,4231:245460,4260
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Michele Coleman Mayes' interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Michele Coleman Mayes lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls her mother's parenting style

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about her father's profession

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls visiting her relatives in the South

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her likeness to her father

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers her first home in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her household

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers her neighbors in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes the sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her personality as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her sister's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers her closest childhood friend

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her religious upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about her family's emphasis on education

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls her mother's place of employment

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her family's medical history

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers two of her childhood friends

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls moving Kendall Street in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers influential teachers from her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her social life

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls her family's holiday traditions

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls attending David Mackenzie High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about her childhood activities

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls her early career aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers the Detroit riots in 1967

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls her decision to attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers an early experience of racial discrimination

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls her first semester at the University of Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes the African American community at the University of Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls her academic experiences at the University of Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers giving a speech on the 1967 Detroit Riots

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her course load at the University of Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers working at the University of Michigan's dental school

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls working at the University of Michigan Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls attending the University of Michigan Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 15 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers her brief hiatus from the University of Michigan Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers her wedding ceremony

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls teaching at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about her position as assistant U.S. Attorney

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls her challenges in the criminal division at the U.S. Attorney's Office

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about moving to Dearborn, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls living in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers moving to New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls returning to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers the air traffic controllers strike

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her long distance marriage

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about the small African American legal community

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls a case she tried as chief of the civil division at the U.S. Attorney's Office

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about her experiences as a woman attorney

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls her decision to leave the U.S. Attorney's Office

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls her decision to practice corporate law

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers her first impressions of Burroughs Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls the advice of her African American coworkers

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers Detroit's African American corporate lawyers

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about joining Burroughs Corporation

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls the merger of Sperry Corporation and Burroughs Corporation

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers her challenges at Unisys Corporation

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her aspiration to become general counsel

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls her decision to join the Colgate Palmolive Company

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her working relationship with Reuben Mark

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls what she learned at the Colgate Palmolive Company

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers her promotion to vice president of the human resources department

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Michele Coleman Mayes shares her advice about leadership

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers her mentor Andrew D. Hendry

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls becoming deputy general counsel at Colgate Palmolive Company

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her international travels with Colgate Palmolive Company

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about settling Colgate Palmolive Company's legal case in Ecuador

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls mediating a conflict with Colgate Palmolive Company's plant in Nigeria, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls mediating a conflict with Colgate Palmolive Company's plant in Nigeria, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers working with a Nigerian law firm

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about Colgate Palmolive Company's limited success in Africa

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls traveling for the Colgate Palmolive Company

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about working with patent law at Colgate Palmolive Company

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers Sara Moss's career advice

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls being hired by Pitney Bowes Inc.

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls interviewing at Pitney Bowes Inc.

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes Pitney Bowes Inc.'s legal department

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about the racial demographics of Fortune 500 company's general counsels

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers her challenges at Pitney Bowes Inc.

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her interactions with her staff at Pitney Bowes Inc.

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about how she divided legal work at Pitney Bowes Inc.

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes Allstate Corporation's legal department

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls chairing a special committee board at Assurant, Inc.

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers interviewing with the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers Allstate Corporation's CEO, Thomas J. Wilson

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Slating of Michele Coleman Mayes's interview, session 2

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls her first impressions of Thomas J. Wilson

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers encountering a weather delay during her interview with the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes the Allstate Corporation offices

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls Michael McCabe's job advice

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her challenges at the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Michele Coleman Mayes remembers the Allstate Corporation's executives

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls Thomas J. Wilson's description of a photograph

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes the aftermath of her interview with the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls her decision to join the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about her leadership style

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her hopes for her staff at Allstate Corporation

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about the role of general counsel

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her goals at the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her legal staff at Allstate Corporation

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about diversity at the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about the insurance industry's regulations

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her first impressions of the Allstate Corporation

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her hopes for Allstate Corporation's growth

Tape: 10 Story: 10 - Michele Coleman Mayes talks about her board memberships

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Michele Coleman Mayes recalls changing her outlook on life

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her plan for the future

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Michele Coleman Mayes shares advice for aspiring lawyers

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her hopes for the African American community

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Michele Coleman Mayes describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Michele Coleman Mayes reflects upon race in America

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Michele Coleman Mayes reflects upon her legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$7

DAStory

3$10

DATitle
Michele Coleman Mayes recalls her early career aspirations
Michele Coleman Mayes remembers Sara Moss's career advice
Transcript
In terms of who influenced me, I don't know. My mother [Geraldine Coleman], again, very, very big presence because I announced when I was eleven that I was going to be a lawyer. I announced it to the world. It's very good when you say things out loud because it's hard to go back, and that made me and if you say something stupid, you may do it. But I announced when I was eleven years old and in junior high school [Tappan Junior High School, Detroit, Michigan], I am going to law school. In this order, however. First, I will be a, I will be a stewardess. They were called stewardesses then because there were no flight attendants, so I can fly around and see the world. And as soon as I do that and get that out of my system, mom, I'm going to go to law school. That sounds good to me. So, my mother said I stuck with that plan (laughter) until a huge airline crash happened, and I never talked about it again (laughter). But I went to law school [University of Michigan Law School, Ann Arbor, Michigan]. And I have to laugh. Several years ago, I was interviewing a candidate who'd been a flight attendant and gone to law school. I said, "You're my role model" (laughter). But in any event, that's what I'd set my sights on. People ask, did I have any lawyers in my family? Nope, nobody I knew, although my mother tells me, and I don't--he's in a book somewhere that very early on, one of my relatives in Memphis [Tennessee], a gentleman, was a lawyer. But it's not anybody I ever met, so how could he have influenced me. But who, I think, influenced me the most are two people. One was Perry Mason, don't know him either, but the other was a judge. Go back to my aunt [Katherine Coleman House (ph.)], she's sort--her circle of friends are very professional people. And one of the individuals that I always was around, particularly all the way through high school [David Mackenzie High School, Detroit, Michigan], he eventually acted as the person who married me, was a black Republican which was also a bit unusual back then. He was very much a black Republican. So, he didn't exactly mingle with everyone in the black community because he was dubbed a bit odd for being a Republican, but because he was, he got a lot of appointments, different things, because he was one in the few. He was competent and good, but still, he was one of the few. So, he got appointed to the bench and was a judge for--well, for--until he died, and he didn't die until not that long ago. So, I was around him. When I announced I wanted to go to law school, my aunt, the one, again, that had all these friends, helped me get jobs. She knew who ran the different legal aid offices and the law firms, and she knew all of these black folks in the profession. And she would say, "You know, my niece wants to go to law school. Why don't you let her work in your law firm?" I hadn't even gone to college [University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan]. I was just getting into college, and they, they let me do it. So, I was running errands, doing very pedestrian things since I was not hardly qualified to render anybody any advice--didn't have any training. But thanks to her, she was constantly opening doors for me like that, that I took for granted. It was like, "You know I'm down, you call them up and see if you can get me a job." And she would say, "Well, let me see what I can do."$Did Pitney Bowes [Pitney Bowes Inc.] come calling?$$Well, that's a very interesting story. I met, I had lunch with Sara Moss, who was my predecessor at Pitney Bowes, about what--when the marathon was here, for three or four weeks ago, she came to Chicago [Illinois]. And Sara Moss, I met through networking. I think networking is critical. I tell people to network when you don't need to.$$That's true.$$You know, people hate for you to network when they know all you want to do is ask them for something.$$That's true.$$And so, Sara and I met because I was networking with a group of lawyers, all women, most of whom were general counsel. I was deputy general counsel at Colgate [Colgate Palmolive Company]. I was not top dog. But the headhunters knew and thought I was ready to move. As I said to somebody, if I go through one more chair at Colgate, it will be a tomb. I, you know, how many more chairs can I go through? I've done enough. I've trained long enough now, I've over trained. So, the headhunters had me on their rolodex, their Blackberry now, whatever. And so one of the headhunters, she was very clever. All the lawyers she was either thinking about placing, or had placed, she would get together for a day and a half. She'd keep her hand on the pulse, "So how's it going, what are you doing?" And I met Sara, or really--I'd met her once before. I got to know Sara through that networking, and we just had good chemistry. We never worked together. We would just chitchat at these informal gatherings. I get a phone call--I'll never forget this--I get a phone call, a voicemail message in January of '02 [2002]--no. Right? January of '02 [2002]. It's Sara. "Michele [HistoryMaker Michele Coleman Mayes], it's Sara, give me a call." Okay, I give her a call, I get her voicemail. This went on until March. I finally say, "Sara, if you want me to be on a panel, just tell me. I'm tired of playing telephone tag." 'Cause I can never get her on her phone. Finally, in March, I answer my phone and she's on the other end. She said, "Well, I'll be darn, you do exist." I said, "All you had to do was leave a voicemail message telling me what you wanted, Sara." I said, "This has been going on for weeks!" She then says to me, "I have a great job. It is with one of the best jobs I have ever had." I said, "Sara, I'm not much interested." (Laughter) Here goes my big mouth. She said, "Well, I intend to leave it." And then my light goes off. I'm not as slow this time--or maybe I am. She says, "Would you like to be considered?" And that was the beginning of the discussion. And I don't think--Mike Critelli [Michael J. Critelli], the CEOs that I've worked with, have always been very open minded, and I've been really, really lucky. That's Reuben [Reuben Mark], Mike [W. Michael Blumenthal], and now Tom [Thomas J. Wilson] because I don't think I appeal to a certain person or I might--I'm not as radical as I sometimes look. People think I'm radical, and I don't think I am. I'm a little bit outside the box, but I don't consider that being radical, but some people would be somewhere put off by me. So, when Sara mentioned that she was putting the slate together with no outside search firm, she said, "I'm resigning this job." 9/11 [September 11, 2001] had happened. Sara has four kids, they were all at home, except for one. And she was commuting from New York [New York] to Stamford, Connecticut, and it was a real drain on her. And so, she was really reassessing what she needed to do personally. She wanted to find a job in the city, which she subsequently did. She's general counsel for Estee Lauder [The Estee lauder Companies Inc.]--$$Okay.$$--but she quit with no job. So, when she called me and told me that, she said, "I think you are ready, and I'm putting you at the top of the list. I told Mike, why doesn't he save the fees of an outside search firm? If he doesn't like the candidates that I've put in front of him, then hire the search firm, but why doesn't he see what candidates I can bring in on my own?" And then, she coached me through the entire process. We talk on the phone. We would meet. She'd tell me how he was as a CEO, what the company's issues were. She coached me.

Rita Aliese Fry

Rita Aliese Fry was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on May 28, 1946. Moving with her family to Chicago, Fry attended Catholic schools and graduated from high school in 1964. First attending Prairie State College in Chicago Heights for an A.A. in 1968, Fry then attended Loyola University of Chicago for a bachelor's degree in 1971. She later went on to attend Northwestern University School of Law, earning her J.D. in 1979.

Fry joined the Cook County Office of Public Defense in 1980, serving as an assistant public defender. She remained there until 1986, when she took a position with the city of Chicago Law Department as a supervisory attorney. Two years later, she returned to the Cook County Public Defender's Office, this time serving as the chief executive, where she remains in her second term today. The Office of the Cook County Public Defender is the largest public defender office in the country, with Fry supervising more than 500 attorneys.

Also active in public policy, Fry has worked as a consultant both in private practice and through government appointment. Governor George Ryan named her to the Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment, a panel that sought to reevaluate Illinois' administration of the death penalty. In 1994, she was selected by the president of the Supreme Court of Ethiopia to assist in establishing a public defender system in that country. Fry has received numerous awards, including the Phenomenal Women Award and the Sixth Amendment Award, and she remains active with a number of organizations, including serving as vice president of the Leadership Council of Greater Chicago and serving on the board of directors of the Lawyer Assistance Program. Fry and her husband, Adelbert, have one son, who is also an attorney.

Accession Number

A2003.246

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/2/2003

Last Name

Fry

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Aliese

Occupation
Schools

St. Charles Borromeo School

St. Mary High School

Prarie State College

Loyola University Chicago

Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law

Old St. Mary's School

First Name

Rita

Birth City, State, Country

Memphis

HM ID

FRY01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere

Favorite Quote

You Can't Hit A Home Run Unless You Step Up To The Plate.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

5/28/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Public defender Rita Aliese Fry (1946 - ) has held positions in the Office of the Cook County Public Defender, the city of Chicago as the supervisor of the law department and as chief executive of the Public Defender's Office.

Employment

Cook County States Attorney's Office

City of Chicago

Cook County Public Defender's Office

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:1463,30:2079,40:3311,52:7777,131:9086,149:12243,198:13090,210:14091,227:21762,276:22364,284:22794,290:23138,295:24428,316:24944,323:26234,340:26750,347:30276,405:31394,425:32168,435:32684,442:37660,480:38220,488:38540,493:46540,632:57908,763:77170,958:83667,1066:84023,1071:84735,1081:86693,1109:93476,1164:93981,1170:97213,1208:116598,1394:117830,1407:118270,1414:119062,1424:120294,1446:120646,1451:121878,1468:123638,1497:128770,1533:132984,1554:133296,1559:134154,1571:136592,1587:140110,1608:140902,1623:142398,1652:143278,1664:146544,1741:150576,1795:153264,1845:153600,1850:154188,1859:155028,1870:156288,1883:159688,1901:160016,1906:163280,1944:164060,1971:164684,1980:170066,2141:170534,2160:171314,2176:173498,2223:181951,2311:182396,2317:183019,2326:183820,2340:184977,2362:189249,2434:189783,2441:193308,2471:193760,2476:194212,2481:198600,2526$0,0:1379,16:1995,26:2380,32:2765,39:3458,54:3997,62:4382,69:4690,74:4998,80:5306,92:7231,133:7847,144:8232,150:11588,170:12254,185:12550,190:37147,551:38148,571:39226,598:42691,661:47157,756:48004,770:53179,792:53605,802:55256,820:56192,842:57344,865:57848,872:58280,879:58928,890:62312,949:62672,955:63032,961:63320,966:65120,996:65696,1006:70604,1034:70948,1039:71722,1051:72066,1056:73528,1071:76174,1102:76466,1107:77123,1118:77634,1127:79532,1162:83280,1179:83910,1189:84540,1211:88942,1241:89307,1247:89599,1252:89964,1258:90256,1263:90548,1268:90986,1281:97860,1337:98490,1346:99480,1361:100020,1368:100920,1380:102900,1418:103350,1426:103800,1432:104340,1440:109158,1466:109674,1473:111566,1510:112168,1519:113760,1524
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Rita Aliese Fry's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Rita Aliese Fry lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her parents' backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Rita Aliese Fry talks about her paternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Rita Aliese Fry talks about her maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Rita Aliese Fry talks briefly about her great-grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Rita Aliese Fry describers her father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Rita Aliese Fry describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Rita Aliese Fry lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her childhood on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her childhood neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her experience at St. Mary High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Rita Aliese Fry describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Rita Aliese Fry remembers Maxwell Street in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her childhood social activities

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Rita Aliese Fry describes being considered "sadiddy" by other schoolchildren

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her love for the blues

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Rita Aliese Fry remembers live blues performances on Maxwell Street in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her childhood personality and interests

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her experience at St. Charles Borremeo School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Rita Aliese Fry remembers a nun at St. Charles Borremeo School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her experience at St. Mary High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Rita Aliese Fry describes dating as a high school student at St. Mary Catholic High School

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Rita Aliese Fry remembers having to take a summer course in Latin at St. Mary Catholic High School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Rita Aliese Fry describes being forbidden from attending the March on Washington in 1963

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Rita Aliese Fry describes experiencing racial discrimination on her senior class trip to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her senior class trip to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Rita Aliese Fry describes attending the Cortez Peters Business College of Chicago and Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Rita Aliese Fry talks about her graduation from Loyola University and admittance to the Northwestern University School of Law

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Rita Aliese Fry talks about the assassinations of Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Rita Aliese Fry describes faculty members at the Northwestern School of Law in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Rita Aliese Fry describes faculty members at the Northwestern School of Law in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Rita Aliese Fry explains why she dropped out and then re-enrolled in law school

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Rita Aliese Fry describes clerking for HistoryMaker James D. "Jim" Montgomery

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Rita Aliese Fry explains her decision to join the Public Defender's Office

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her first day in the Public Defender's Office

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Rita Aliese Fry describes a public defender's daily workload, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Rita Aliese Fry describes a public defender's daily workload, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her tenure in the felony division of the Public Defender's Office

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Rita Aliese Fry describes filing a discrimination lawsuit against the Public Defender's Office, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Rita Aliese Fry describes filing a discrimination lawsuit against the Public Defender's Office, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Rita Aliese Fry talks about the conviction rate in Chicago, Illinois during the Mayor Harold Washington Administration

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Rita Aliese Fry explains her job function as Senior Attorney and Supervisor for Municipal Prosecution under the Harold Washington Administration

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Rita Aliese Fry remembers Chicago Mayor Harold Washington

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her tenure as Senior Attorney and Supervisor for Municipal Prosecution under the Harold Washington Administration

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Rita Aliese Fry talks about her return to the Public Defender's Office in 1988 as First Assistant

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her first weeks in the Public Defender's Office as First Assistant

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Rita Aliese Fry describes her tenure as First Assistant in the Public Defender's Office

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Rita Aliese Fry talks about being sworn in as Public Defender of Cook County

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Rita Aliese Fry describes what she'd like her legacy to be as the Public Defender of Cook County

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Rita Aliese Fry critiques the juvenile justice system, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Rita Aliese Fry critiques the juvenile justice system, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Rita Aliese Fry talks about her defense of a client charged with manslaughter

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Rita Aliese Fry talks about social and economic inequalities that influence the rates of conviction and incarceration, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Rita Aliese Fry talks about social and economic inequalities that influence the rates of conviction and incarceration, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Rita Aliese Fry critiques the demand for increased policing in urban communities

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Rita Aliese Fry talks about repressive legislation

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Rita Aliese Fry considers possibly working in public policy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Rita Aliese Fry describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Rita Aliese Fry describes recent improvements in public defense

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Rita Aliese Fry narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Rita Aliese Fry narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Rita Aliese Fry narrates her photographs, pt. 3

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

8$5

DATitle
Rita Aliese Fry remembers a nun at St. Charles Borremeo School in Chicago, Illinois
Rita Aliese Fry describes her first weeks in the Public Defender's Office as First Assistant
Transcript
Okay now, who do you remember coming to talk to the students, you know, some of the role models? Or who was, who were some of the teachers that you remember?$$The people who came to speak, I don't remember by name. They were just, you know, we had a doctor come one time to explain about what doctors did. We had police officers, we had social workers. We had, I think it was something--I'm trying to remember. They did something really unusual. Oh, it was an entertainer. Because this particular entertainer was an actor/singer type, who was very, who was friends with one of the nuns. And so he made a point every year of coming, and we would always be excited when he would come, and sometimes he'd bring somebody with him. But again, it was somebody that I wouldn't necessarily see other than at school or maybe in a movie. But here he was, and he came to our school, and that meant something. In terms of the nuns, I had a nun in sixth grade that was very "un-nun" like to me. (Laughter). Because she was loud, she had a big booming voice. She was very athletic, very energetic, and she was always saying, "You can do anything you want. And you don't have to be a "namby pamby" sissy just because, you know, you're a girl." And I appreciated that, and I saw that as something important. I had a nun in eighth grade, Sister Mary Caroline Cecile, I'll never forget. I won a scholarship, when I graduated from eighth grade, to high school. And so, that scholarship paid for my first year in high school. And she said to me, "You got that scholarship because you not only are part of our school and our parish, and all of that, but because you have the skills to go on. You just need to, you just need to settle down." Because I was always kind of a rebel. She said, "You just need to settle down." And I appreciated the fact that she understood that I was a rebel, but at the same time, I had potential. I didn't know what I was going to do. I remember looking in my eighth grade, you know how you get those autograph books when you graduated from eighth grade, where everybody signs, you know, and says all these little sentimental things to you. Well, inside of there, it said "What would you like to be?" And I said, "I want to be a lawyer." But I didn't know any lawyers. I'd never seen any other than on television. I didn't know how one went about being a lawyer. But I said it, I wrote it, and nobody said, "Oh, you can't do it." They just said, "Oh." And that makes a big difference.$And indeed, the first few weeks were a little tense. Because when I came back, most of the people that had been there when I'd been there were still there. Most of the people who had been hostile to me when I was there, were still there (laughter).$$And still hostile?$$And still hostile. And so, [HM] Randolph [Noel] Stone called a meeting of all the assistants, and primarily the ones at 26th and California, because they would be the people who I knew. The new people would not be in First--would be in First Municipal. So, we met at 26th and California, all the people who had been in the Office. And he said to them, "This is Rita Fry. She's my new First Assistant. I know that some of you might have some concerns. She is here to answer any questions and talk to you." And he turned it over to me. So I said, you know, "I am back, I am happy to be back. Public defense is something I've built my career on. I'm hoping that we can bring about some changes in the office--better training, better opportunities--and I hope that we can work together. The past is the past." One of the guys raised his hand and said to me, "How do we know we can trust you to not retaliate against us for things that happened to you?" And I don't know where this came from, it was just spontaneous. I looked at him and I said, "You can trust me because I am a public defender at heart. But more importantly, I'm the boss, I don't have to retaliate." And they all looked shocked, but they understood it, and that was that.