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The Honorable Gregory Mathis

Judge Greg Mathis, the youngest elected judge in Michigan’s history, was born on April 5, 1960, in Detroit, Michigan. Raised by his mother, Mathis’s troubled upbringing and membership in the Errol Flynns gang is documented in his 2002 autobiography Inner City Miracle. After attending Herman Gardens Elementary School, Peterson Seventh Day Adventist School, and Wayne Memorial High School, Mathis earned his GED through Operation PUSH while on juvenile probation in 1977. Mathis received his B.S. degree in public administration from Eastern Michigan University in 1982 and his J.D. degree from the University of Detroit Law School in 1987. Mathis led the Free South Africa and voter registration campaigns at Eastern Michigan University.

In 1983 Mathis joined the staff of Detroit City Councilman Clyde Cleveland, volunteered for Operation Push, and worked on Reverend Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in 1984. In 1986, Mathis, his wife Linda, and some friends formed Young Adults Asserting Themselves (YAAT) and four preschools in Detroit. Chosen to head Reverend Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign in Michigan, Mathis later worked as the manager of Detroit’s Neighborhood City Halls for the late Mayor Coleman A. Young. In 1995, Mathis was elected to Michigan’s 36 District Court, and in 1998 Warner Brothers Television launched the Judge Mathis Show.

Featured prominently in both the print and electronic media, Mathis has been the recipient of many awards and honors. A chairman of Rainbow/PUSH-Excel board, a lifetime member of the NAACP, and a member the Southern Christian Leadership Conference board, Mathis and his wife and college sweetheart, Linda, have raised four children.

Accession Number

A2005.055

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/25/2005 |and| 12/15/2006

Last Name

Mathis

Maker Category
Schools

Peterson Seventh Day Adventist School

Herman Gardens Elementary School

Peterson-Warren Seventh Day Adventist School

Wayne Memorial High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Gregory

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

MAT03

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Mark D. Goodman

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Florida

Favorite Quote

Believe In God And Believe In Yourself, And You Can Overcome Any Obstacle.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

4/5/1960

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Greens (Collard)

Short Description

Federal district court judge and television personality The Honorable Gregory Mathis (1960 - ) was the youngest elected judge in Michigan’s history, and the host of the Warner Brothers Television program, the Judge Mathis Show.

Employment

State of Michigan

Warner Brothers

Jackson Campaign

Detroit Neighborhood City Hall

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Gregory Mathis' interview, session 1

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

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

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes his maternal grandfather, Walter Lee

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes his family's connection to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Florida

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes his mother, Alice Lee Mathis

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes his father, Charles Mathis

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes his upbringing as a Seventh-day Adventist

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes his childhood neighborhood of Prairie Street in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis talks about the music of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers the racial environment of his neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis recalls a typical day at his childhood home

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes himself as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis recalls getting in trouble in school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis recalls the deteriorating conditions in the Herman Gardens Housing Projects in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers the negative relationship between police and the community

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers the time his mother was attacked

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Gregory Mathis' interview, session 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers his life as a teenager

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers an incident between his mother and his teacher

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis recalls his critical foundation in church and school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes himself as a young student

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis recalls his lowest point as a young man

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes the gang he joined as a young man

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers first encountering the Errol Flynns gang

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers his descent into crime and gang activity

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers the judge who spared him from jail time

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis talks about being admitted to Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes returning to crime after his mother died

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis tells how he met his wife, Linda Mathis

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers deciding to become a lawyer

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis recalls his campus activism at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis details his aspirations as a senior in college

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis speaks about his life after graduating from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers working for HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse L. Jackson's presidential campaign

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers working for Detroit City Councilman Clyde Cleveland

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis reflects on the political and economic history of Detroit, Michigan, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis reflects on the political and economic history of Detroit, Michigan, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis explains how he obtained his law license

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers working for Mayor Coleman Young

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes the youth agency he started

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes what motivated him to run for court judge

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis reflects on his experience as a district court judge in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers fulfilling moments from his work in the community and the courts

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis speaks about mental illness in the criminal justice system

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes the flaws in the criminal justice system, pt.1

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes the flaws in the criminal justice system, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis explains how he became a television star

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers telling HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse L. Jackson about his TV show offer

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis explains the legal details of the 'Judge Mathis' show

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis recalls a memorable case on his TV show

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis reflects on the value of judge shows on television

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis reflects upon his life

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

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis speaks about staying connected to his community

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - The Honorable Gregory Mathis describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

2$2

DATape

4$7

DAStory

6$3

DATitle
The Honorable Gregory Mathis remembers deciding to become a lawyer
The Honorable Gregory Mathis recalls a memorable case on his TV show
Transcript
What were you majoring in, in college [Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan]?$$I started out, doing what everybody else said I should do, and that is engineering or business administration, because that's where the jobs were. My first semester, engineering. I was reading up on it and hearing about the classes. I don't think I like that. So, next semester, business administration.$$You must have been a good math student.$$No, not at all. That was the (laughter) that was the problem. When they started hitting me--those were my weakest courses. And, when they started hitting me with them, I quickly determined that I wouldn't be in business nor engineering. The fact is, my first year, perhaps year-and-a-half, I was on academic probation because those courses were killing me. I had never went past algebra, in high school, and went to the tenth grade. Never had a chemistry course. Don't even remember whether I had a biology course, in high school [Cody High School, Detroit, Michigan]. So, when they started hitting me with that; I was on the ropes, averaging Ds in all my math and science courses. The only thing that saved me were the: English, political science; social studies, my favorite subject; psychology, those type of courses. I did very well in, in college, the first two years. That kept me in. And, so, I decided I couldn't be in business nor could I be an engineer where everybody's saying the money and jobs fields they were going to be going to be the most successful in. Well, I went to the library, and I tell young people this all the time. I actually went to the library and got this career handbook. I said I'm gonna look up something else. And the career handbook had a test that you could take to tell you what you're most skilled at and what careers your skills would allow you to be most successful in. So, I took this battery, or this test, and, it gave me a list of things I'll be great at; a social worker, school teacher, lawyer, psychologist. So, of course, I said well, I thought long about the sociologist or social worker, because you know, once again I was attracted to wanting to change conditions of my community and attracted to being involved in the outside world somehow (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) So, were you able to then--at that age--make a connection between--I mean it's one thing to hear you now, as [HistoryMaker] Judge [Gregory] Mathis, talk about the social conditions creating, you know, mayhem in people and that sort of thing, but at that age, had you begin, had you begun to put it together?$$Yeah, because one: I used to read some of those Black Panther [Black Panther Party] papers that my brother used to bring home. Read 'The Autobiography of Malcolm X' [Malcolm X and Alex Haley], which was very eye-opening. [HistoryMaker] Reverend [Jesse L.] Jackson, Jesse Jackson, had come to speak to the jail facility I was in and spoke to us jailers while we were there, and, that kind of motivated me to want to get into the movement. And, so all those things kind of converged when I took that test. I said social work, I can kind of help solve some of the problems in my community. Then, I said, but I remember Malcolm [X] always wanted to be a lawyer, but by then I was feeling like, you know, that he was one of my role-models then. Malcolm went to jail, he came out, and he became somebody. And, he was able to make a difference in his community. That's what I want to do. I want to do what Malcolm did. Not that I thought I was anything like him. I certainly have never been that--had that strength of character, but he was a great role-model; and so, I recall, that he told the teacher he wanted to be a lawyer and the teacher told him he could never be a lawyer. So he said--$$He said more than that, I think, in the autobiography.$$Yeah, you're right. So, I wanted to be a lawyer; and, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. And, this is the best way to achieve justice and social change. So, from that point on, I switched my major to public administration which was the business of public policy meaning running non-profits, working for government agencies. And the reason I chose that is because I had enough business courses to transfer those over to a new major. And, so, I took those business courses I had taken enroute to a business administration degree, transferred over to a public administration degree and majored in that, in undergrad, with a desire to go to law school.$Well, what have been--so many of these shows, every week there's something that's interesting. What's been--is there one or two cases that are more--$$Yeah, believe it or not, it wouldn't be some of the more outrageous stuff that you see [on 'Judge Mathis']. Folks often think that is what would be most impressionable to me, and it's not it is really matters of the heart that stand out with me the most. For example, probably the most outstanding case, in my mind, was the young man who was suing his parents. He was in his third year of college--I think maybe a senior in college, and he was suing his parents because they had a light bill in his name and they had failed to pay the light bill. So, it's like: "I'm suing them. They didn't pay this light bill and it's about to ruin my credit." Hundred dollars or whatever it was. And he was in the right. He had the right to sue and he was about to win his judgment and I asked the parents there's nothing I can do, but: "Why didn't you all pay this bill? Why did you have to put it in his name?" "Well, Your Honor, we had to put it in his name because our credit is ruined." "Why didn't you pay?" "We can't afford it. Your Honor, we in bad shape, financially, it's because all of his life, from K [kindergarten] through twelve, we sent him to a private school, paid for that. And, we've paid for all his college. That's why we can't pay this light bill. That's why we have bad credit." So, it was just amazing to me, that a young man would sue his parents for being in financial straits--when the reason they're in financial straits is because they provided him with a privileged education, that will forever allow him to be a successful, productive and prosperous citizen. So, those are the type of cases that touch me.$$That sounds like a primer on how not to spoil a child or something--$$Absolutely. And, it sounds like a issue of character, an issue of character. That stands out the most, that case, in particular. It must have four or five years ago, but that it still stands out. Perhaps because I didn't have any parents to support, me, and perhaps because of the sacrifice my mother [Alice Lee Mathis] made sending me to church-school spending more on my church-school tuition than she did on our rent. Maybe that weighs in, as well.$$You said there was another one? Was there another one?$$Well, there were so many that resemble this scenario I'm going to give you, and that being a child or a parent suing a child for some destructive activity that the child may have caused the parent--maybe something in the household the child did or the child is a wayward child. And, then it comes out that the parent was drug-addicted all of the child's formative years. And it's like: "Don't you see the connection? You were negligent and perhaps abusive toward the child during your fifteen-year drug addiction, and then you are shocked that the child is living a destructive life. You were negligent in raising the child; you caused some of these problems; you lived in poverty; you were negligent toward raising the child; you left the child in the crime and drug-infested household while you were off doing your thing and now you wonder?"