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The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown

Ohio State Justice Yvette McGee Brown was born in Columbus Ohio to Sylvia Kendrick on July 1, 1960. After graduating from Columbus, Ohio’s Mifflin High School, McGee Brown attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. She graduated with her B.S. degree in journalism from Ohio University in 1982. Three years later, McGee Brown graduated from Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law with her J.D. degree in law. In 1992, McGee Brown was elected to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations and Juvenile division. As lead Juvenile Court Judge, she led the creation of the Family Drug Court and the SMART Program, a truancy and educational neglect intervention program. After nine years on the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, she retired from the bench to create the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, a multi-disciplinary child abuse and family violence program. In 2008, McGee Brown was also elected to the Ohio Elections Commission. After serving as founding president for the Center for Child and Family Advocacy, McGee Brown became a candidate for lieutenant governor of Ohio, tabbed by then Governor Ted Strickland in 2010. Strickland appointed her to the Ohio Supreme Court after losing his gubernatorial bid. McGee Brown became the first African American woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Ohio.

An active community and corporate leader, Justice McGee Brown has served on the boards of Ohio University, The Ohio State University Medical Center, the National Council of the OSU Moritz College of Law, M/I Homes Inc. and Fifth Third Bank of Central Ohio. She is the former chair of the United Way of Central Ohio, The Ohio State University Alumni Association and the YWCA Columbus Board of Directors. In 2008, Justice McGee Brown was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. Among her many honors, she has received the Champion of Children Award, YWCA Woman of Achievement Award and several honors from Ohio University and The Ohio State University.

Justice McGee Brown is married to Tony Brown. They have three children and one grandson.

Justice Yvette McGee Brown was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 6, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.087

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/6/2012

Last Name

McGee Brown

Maker Category
Schools

The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

Ohio University

Mifflin High School

Mifflin Middle School

Fairwood Alternative Elementary School

South Mifflin Elementary School

First Name

Yvette

Birth City, State, Country

Columbus

HM ID

MCG02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Favorite Quote

It Doesn't Matter Where You Started In Life; It Matters Where You End.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/1/1960

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Columbus

Country

USA

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

State supreme court judge The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown (1960 - ) was the first African American woman to serve on the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and the Supreme Court of Ohio. She also founded the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Columbus Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Employment

Supreme Court of Ohio

Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children's Hospital

Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations and Juvenile Division

Ohio Attorney General's Office

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown talks about her maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes her mother's experiences as a single mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes her relationship with her father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown remembers meeting her half-sister

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes her likeness to her parents

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Browns talks about her mother's marriages

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown recalls her mother's diagnosis with Guillain-Barre syndrome

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown remembers visiting her maternal grandparents' home

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes her schooling

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown remembers Mifflin High School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown recalls the political climate of the late 1970s

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown remembers interviewing Judge Robert Morton Duncan

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes her early aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown remembers studying journalism at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes her mentors at Ohio University

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown talks about her experiences at Ohio University

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown recalls her decision to attend The Ohio State University College of Law in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Yvette McGee Brown remembers The Ohio State University College of Law in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Yvette McGee Brown remembers joining the Ohio attorney general's office

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Yvette McGee Brown talks about Judge Lillian W. Burke

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Yvette McGee Brown describes her career at the Ohio attorney general's office

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Yvette McGee Brown recalls implementing consent decrees in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Yvette McGee Brown remembers her decision to pursue a county judgeship

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Yvette McGee Brown remembers her election as a judge in Franklin County, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Yvette McGee Brown describes her judgeship at the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Yvette McGee Brown describes her judgeship at the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown talks about the juvenile court system

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown remembers the O.J. Simpson trial

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown remembers meeting her husband

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes the Student Mediation and Assistance to Reduce Truancy program

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes the Family Drug Court at the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes the Center for Child and Family Advocacy in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown reflects upon her early judicial career

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown remembers serving on the Ohio Elections Commission

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown recalls her decision to become Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's running mate

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown remembers Governor Ted Strickland's reelection campaign

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown recalls her appointment to the Supreme Court of Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown talks about her colleagues on the Supreme Court of Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown talks about her speaking engagements

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown talks about her casework on the Supreme Court of Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes her family

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

5$6

DATitle
Yvette McGee Brown recalls implementing consent decrees in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown describes the Center for Child and Family Advocacy in Columbus, Ohio
Transcript
What did the court order the--$$The department [Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction] to do?$$Yeah (unclear) (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Well, the department at that time was deemed to be discriminatory from race and sex. And the court, the federal court [U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio] had ordered the Ohio Penitentiary closed. The Ohio Penitentiary used to sit in what is now called the Arena District in Columbus [Ohio]. It was this huge prison that had been built in the 1800s. And the federal district--the federal courts had declared that it was cruel and unusual to have inmates inhabit that facility. So, it had to be closed and, ultimately, it was torn down. At the time, I came to the department we had been accused of race discrimination for not promoting African Americans, and not just in employment, but in how we dealt with inmates. We had a caste system inside the prison department where white inmates got cells, and black inmates got dormitories. And so, part of my responsibility was to help develop and write policies, and then train the wardens and the staff on how this was going to happen. It was very interesting to me because I would meet with the wardens, and they were very opposed to housing black and white inmates together. They were like, "You don't understand, they will not live together." And I looked at them and I said, "Oh, we don't let inmates choose any part of their existence. We don't let them choose what they're going to wear, what they're going to eat, when they go to the bathroom, what time they get up, and suddenly, we're going to let them choose who they live with? This is prison. These are your issues. We're going to assign cells based on security levels, and not based on race." But, oh, my gosh, it was so hard. And then, the other case we had was a serious case of sex discrimination. They would not allow women to work as correctional officers in maximum security prisons because, apparently, women are so weak, they would have sex with the inmates. And a woman couldn't get promoted to be a warden if she didn't have maximum security experience. So, the, the duplicity of their argument, though, is that, at the same time, they were prosecuting and--or, excuse me, defending a case as to why women couldn't work in maximum security prisons, we had men working in the female prison. And we had female inmates actually getting pregnant. And nobody was saying that men couldn't work in Marysville [Ohio Reformatory for Women, Marysville, Ohio] so, of course, we lost that case. And I can remember sitting with this old warden. His name is Arnold Jago [ph.]. And Arnold Jago, he used to call me Gal, 'cause Arnold was sixty-five years old. And he looks like what you would think a warden would look like, and he would say to me, "Gal, we are not letting women into this prison." And I said, "Warden, yes, you are. Women are going to work in this prison. That is what the federal court has ordered." And I had his supervisor with me who said to him, "Arnold, either women start working in this prison, or you're not going to be the warden anymore." So, it was a fascinating practice for somebody who was only twenty-seven years old.$$Yeah, it does. It sounds like a fascinating--Ohio State Pen, as you described it, was used as a model for a draconian prison in 'The Shawshank Redemption' (unclear) (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) It was, that was Mansfield.$$Oh, Mansfield?$$The Mansfield Correctional [Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, Ohio], yeah, 'cause that one is Mansfield, and I've been there several times. It, it was the only prison in the country that was built six tiers high, solid concrete. It was so noisy, like you could hear yourself as you would walk through. You hear every step you take, and the noise was deafening. Oh, my god, if they even started talking, they, and because they were stacked straight on top of each other, you have somebody on tier six yelling down to somebody on tier four, you would lose your mind. I don't know how people didn't go crazy in there. It was the loudest, most difficult prison to operate.$$Okay.$$And that was where 'Shawshank' was filmed.$$Okay. And I always thought it was Ohio Pen--$$Yeah, the Ohio Pen was, I think, gone or, or pretty decrepit by that time.$$I think they shot something before they knocked it down (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, they probably--oh, 'Cool Hand Luke' maybe? Yeah, they did do, they did several movies at the Ohio Pen because to see it, you're right. It was pretty draconian looking, yeah. And then, there was that infamous fire there where several inmates died and, yeah, it was a bad place.$$Okay. Okay. So, you were trying to implement the federal consent, consent decree, and--$$We had several, yeah. We were being sued all the time (laughter).$What happened when you left the court [Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations and Juvenile Branch]? (Unclear).$$Well, I left the court to go over to Nationwide Children's Hospital [Columbus Children's Hospital; Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio] because I was in the middle of my second term. The second time I ran, they did not run anybody against me, so people were shocked that I was stepping down. But I'd al- I've always been one of those people guided by, where can I make the biggest difference? And, quite honestly, I was just getting burned out on the court. It was, it, the depravity that I was seeing every day, it just, I wasn't able to leave it at the office. And I'd always promised myself that when I reached the point where I couldn't see the humanity in the person across the bench from me, it was time for me to go. My youngest [David Brown] was four, my middle daughter [Laura Brown] was fourteen. It was time for me to go. And I started having quiet conversations with people, imagining I would just transition to a law firm. And Nationwide Children's, one of my friends was on the board and Nationwide Children's asked me to come and talk to them. And they wanted to create a one stop child abuse center because they had children who were sexually abused, spending hours in the emergency room, sometimes eight, ten, twelve hours waiting on detectives to get there, waiting on children's services to get there. So, they basically said, "This is kind of what we're thinking, but we'd like you with your experience to come in and design it." And so, I literally got the opportunity to plan, program, and build a center from the ground up. They had originally told me I had $3 million. I, I ultimately got $10 million, and we built a forty-two thousand square foot facility that, now in Franklin County [Ohio], we've been open now for, since 2005 for seven years. So, we have literally changed the paradigm on how you treat abused children. What we did is we moved all of the systems that deal with seriously abused children into one location. This beautiful building looks like you're walking into somebody's living room. It doesn't look like a hospital. It doesn't look institutional. We moved our five child abuse physicians, nurse practitioners, eight trauma treatment therapists, seventeen detectives from our special victims bureau at the Columbus police department [Columbus Division of Police], ten children services investigators, two Franklin County prosecutors, a domestic violence therapist, a child psychiatrist, and the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence [The Center for Family Safety and Healing, Columbus, Ohio] all in one location, all working together. It took us two years just to get the memorandums of understanding completed. But what--it's amazing what happens when you take six organizations that are used to pointing the finger at each other, which is what they used to do when I was on the bench; the police would blame children's services. Children's services would blame the prosecutor as to why nothing happened. But now, instead of being this anonymous name on a phone message, it's the person you see in the parking lot. It's the person you get coffee with in the morning. So, the beauty of this is that when a child is raped, they come to the center, and everybody they need to see is at the center: the detective's there, the children's services worker is here, the physician is there. We immediately get them into trauma treatment with a therapist. And so, oftentimes, the police detective is able to go and interview the alleged perpetrator before the mom can get home and say, oh, my god, this is what they found. So, it's a wonderful system. It was the work of my life. It's what I thought I was going to end my career doing. And then, Governor Strickland [Ted Strickland] called in 2010 (laughter).$$Yeah. For the record, the name of the place is the Center for Child and Family Advocacy [The Center for Family Safety and Healing, Columbus, Ohio]--$$At Nationwide Children's--$$--at Nationwide Children's Hospital.$$Yes.$$And this makes so much sense. Is this still going on?$$It is.$$And has it been replicated in others?$$Yeah, we, and we actually weren't the first people to come up with this concept. I mean, there are centers like this that exist. Chicago [Illinois] has one. I went to visit the Chicago one. It's twenty-seven thousand square feet. That's when I knew I had to make it bigger. And Chicago's is a house, it's really kind of whimsical. They have windows that are on the floor, and they have windows that go up outside down, so it's really entertaining for a child to look at. But one of the things I--when I met with the director there, and I asked her, I said, "What would you do if you were doing different--doing it today differently?" She said, "I'd build it bigger." Because what we, what we everybody underestimated, which we got the benefit of their experience, is that when you create a safe place for people to come, where they don't have to go down to the police station, where they don't have to into a hospital emergency room, it makes it easier for people to come forward. So, I went to San Diego [California], I went to Chicago, I sent a consultant to Denver [Colorado], I went to Cincinnati [Ohio]. I went to Houston [Texas]. Houston has a fifty-six thousand square foot facility, and they were adding on to it at the time I visited them in 2002. So, we didn't create the model. I'd like to say that ours is the most comprehensive model because we included domestic violence because what we found in interviewing our families is that 60 percent of our parents gave a current or prior history of domestic violence, so we believed in terms of healing the child, we had to heal the family.$$Okay.