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The Honorable Wilford Taylor

Wilford Taylor, Jr. was born on January 15, 1950 in Newport News, Virginia. His mother was a homemaker and later a teacher and his father was a mail carrier and chef. He grew up in Hampton, Virginia's Aberdeen community, which is now a historic landmark in the city. In 1968, Taylor was part of the first group of African Americans to integrate Hampton High School. While at Hampton High, he was a member of the football, baseball, track and tennis teams and the thespian club. He earned his high school diploma in 1968.

Taylor then attended Hampton Institute, where he earned his B.S. degree in business management in 1972. Following his graduation, he served in the United States army for the next three years, while earning his master's of commerce degree from the University of Richmond in 1975. In 1978, Taylor earned his law degree from the College of William and Mary. He started a law firm with good friend and attorney Bobby Scott, who is now a Congressman. In 1981, the firm merged with another firm and became Scott, Coles, Brown, Taylor and Melvin. From 1983 until 1985, Taylor worked as the Deputy City Attorney for Hampton. In 1985, Taylor made history, becoming Hampton's first full time African American judge. He served as a judge in the General District Court until 1995, when he was appointed to the Circuit Court, a position he holds today.

Taylor is an adjunct professor at his alma mater, teaching trial advocacy and therapeutic jurisprudence. He is a member of numerous organizations including the American Judges Association, Virginia State Bar Association and Lawyers Helping Lawyers Committee.

He and his wife, Linda, reside in Hampton and have two grown children.

Accession Number

A2004.101

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/20/2004 |and| 10/14/2004

Last Name

Taylor

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Hampton High School

Aberdeen Elementary School

George Wythe High

Hampton University

University of Richmond

The College of William & Mary

First Name

Wilford

Birth City, State, Country

Newport News

HM ID

TAY07

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Maui, Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Let's Fix It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

1/15/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Beef

Short Description

Circuit court judge The Honorable Wilford Taylor (1950 - ) was Hampton, Virginia's first full time African American judge. He served as a judge in the General District Court until 1995, after which he was appointed to the Circuit Court.

Employment

United States Army

Scott & Taylor

Scott, Coles, Brown, Taylor & Melvin

City of Hampton, Virginia

Hampton General District Court

Hampton Circuit Court

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Wilford Taylor's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes his mother's educational opportunities and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about his father's employment

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes his father's work ethic

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about his maternal ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes his summer activities

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes Aberdeen Gardens, his childhood neighborhood in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor recalls holidays during his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about the focus of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes his childhood activities

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 18 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 19 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor reflects upon his childhood experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 20 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor recalls memorable elementary school teachers

Tape: 1 Story: 21 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes his childhood temperament

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about the importance of education for his family

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about attending church in Hampton, Virginia as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about his junior high school experiences in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about his aspiration to be an airline pilot

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about attending Hampton High School in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor recalls racist incidents at Hampton High School in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor reflects upon his experiences with racism while growing up in the South during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes his favorite high school subjects and activities

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes his long-lasting high school friendships

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor remembers visiting Broadway in New York, New York during high school to see 'Man of La Mancha'

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about his high school's response to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor explains his decision to attend Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about his impression of Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about his membership in Groove Phi Groove at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes his experiences as an intern for Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 16 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes his favorite classes and professor at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 17 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about directing the Hampton University Drug Education Program

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about his experiences as a U.S. Army instructor at Fort Lee, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor explains his change of interest from flying airplanes to investment banking

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes how he met his wife, Linda Taylor

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about leaving his position in the U.S. Army at Fort Lee, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about his decision to attend William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor reflects upon his experiences at William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about the grading system at William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes his favorite constitutional law professor at William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes the academic rigor of William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about beginning a law practice with his friend Bobby Scott in the late 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about his responsibilities in his federal litigation practice

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about the merger of Scott and Taylor with Stewart, Brown and Jones in 1981

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor explains how he became deputy city attorney in 1983 for Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about white city employees' responses to his role as deputy city attorney for Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 15 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about his family's reaction to his employment as an attorney in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 16 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor explains the purview of a general district court in Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 17 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about becoming the first African American appointed to full-time judgeship in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 18 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes the lobbying process to be appointed general district court judge in the State of Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 19 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor reflects upon his judgeship appointment to the Hampton General District Court in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about the types of cases he tried as judge for the Hampton General District Court in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor explains how he handled cases when he knew the people involved

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes his first day on the bench in the general district court in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor explains the differences between a circuit court and general district court in Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about challenging circuit court cases and decisions

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor reflects upon various perceptions of his conduct as a judge

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor shares his views on the media's role in enlightening the general population about court proceedings

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about his perspective on juries

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes the types of cases typically brought before the Hampton Circuit Court in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about his perspective on sentencing guidelines in the State of Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor reflects upon his life experiences, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor explains why his position as a role model honors those who influenced him

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor shares advice for people interested in pursuing a law career

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor reflects upon his life experiences, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor narrates his photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Wilford Taylor narrates his photographs, pt. 3

DASession

2$2

DATape

3$3

DAStory

13$17

DATitle
The Honorable Wilford Taylor explains how he became deputy city attorney in 1983 for Hampton, Virginia
The Honorable Wilford Taylor talks about becoming the first African American appointed to full-time judgeship in Hampton, Virginia
Transcript
Let's talk little bit about in 1983 when you became the deputy city attorney [for Hampton, Virginia].$$Yes.$$How did that come about?$$Well, I guess at that time I was practicing I was, had, it was just a great experience. I enjoyed the practice of law. Of course, we [Scott, Coles, Brown, Taylor and Melvin P.C., Newport News, Virginia] were growing. The staff was growing, and you know, our caseload was growing. Things were going well, and opportunity presented itself in the city attorney's office in Hampton. And, and I was in, interested in that. I took a class in law school [William & Mary Law School, Williamsburg, Virginia] in municipal corporations, which is basically city government law, and became interested. And, and the city attorney offered me a job, and I, and that's when I started I guess, you know, again, pioneering. I became the first African American attorney to work in the city attorney's office. And I just thought that was a great opportunity to come back home and to become a deputy city attorney, a different kind of practice. You, you get in and you represent city government. You--your department heads and the city council. You, basically, you just try to help them with their legal problems and, and issues. And so it was a great, great experience. And so it was an opportunity to become, you know, a first, and, and I took it, and left private practice, and joined the city attorney staff.$$What were some of the--your accomplishments as deputy city attorney [for Hampton, Virginia]?$$I would say preventive law, working, making city department heads more aware of the legal implications of what they do. My focus and the focus of the city attorney was preventive law, to try not to create a situation where you have to end up in court litigating. I had several cases that went, ended up in court, but we, we were successful. I mean I was able to be, you know, to, to litigate successfully cases that did go to court. But I would say the most important thing was to prevent a lot of law cases in court and to get the managers to understand that they need to prevent and be, be cognizant of legal implications of what they do. And that was our big, big I guess claim to fame. And so I enjoyed spending a lot of time in meetings, and, and advising, and counseling department heads, and, and also helping city council avoid litigation. And I, I thought that was, that was the way to do it. And city manager at the time--I mean city, the city attorney at the time encouraged us to take that approach. And so, that was a big, big thing, big accomplishment I felt. I mean, I can't point to any one thing, how it helped, but I just know that, that many department heads were able to stay out of trouble based on counsel and advice that, that I helped them with.$So you have to get a majority of votes from [the Virginia General Assembly]--saying that this is the person we'd like to have [as Hampton General District Court judge].$$Well, that's the way it, when I, in '85 [1985], that's the way it worked. No, the, the--you don't have to. What, what you have to get is a majority vote of the General Assembly. You don't have to get a bar endorsement.$$Right. So you kind of have to lobby the General Assembly then?$$Yes, yes, you have to do that. But back when I became a judge [on the Hampton General District Court, Hampton, Virginia] in '85 [1985] that was the protocol.$$Okay.$$You had to go through a bar association. And so I went to the Hampton Bar [Association, Hampton, Virginia], 'cause they had never endorsed a black person for a vacancy. Now, I have to tell you, I was the first to be appointed a full-time judge, but I was not the first black judge on the peninsula. We had two other judges that came before me: Philip [S.] Walker and William [Thomas] Stone--$$But you were the first full-time.$$Yeah, first full-time. But those are two of my role models, are very outstanding gentlemen, and, and had they wanted to be full-time judges, they would have been (laughter). But they didn't want to. They were had very, very lucrative practices and, but they were part-time judges. They were just substitute, we call 'em substitute judges, but I was the first full time. But what happened, in '85 [1985], the vacancy came up, and I went to the Hampton Bar and asked for the endorsement, and they gave it to me. I was endorsed by the Hampton Bar for the first time, the first African American to be endorsed by the Hampton Bar for a, a judicial vacancy in Hampton. And of course, I went to the General Assembly, and I was elected a judge. And I became the first judge in Hampton and Newport News [Virginia], actually, on the peninsula. As you, you know, the Hampton and Newport News, we're part of Hampton Roads [Virginia] on this side of the water. I became the first African American judge, full-time judge on the peninsula.