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Article

Ebenezer Ayesu

lawyer, chief judge, and president of Ghana, was born at Dodowa in the Greater Accra region of the Gold Cost (now Ghana) on 26 June 1906. His father was William Martin Addo-Danquah of Akropong, Akuapem. His mother was Theodora Amuafi, also from Akropong, Akuapem. After receiving his elementary education at the Presbyterian primary and middle schools at Dodowa, he enrolled in Achimota College in 1929, from where he was awarded scholarship to study mathematics, philosophy, and politics at Saint Peter’s College, Oxford University. Akuffo-Addo was one of the first students at Saint Peter’s College, matriculating in 1930, a year after the college was established. He went on to graduate with honors in philosophy and politics in 1933. He was later made an honorary fellow of the college, and in 1971 he was made a doctor of civil law at Oxford University.

In 1940 Akuffo Addo ...

Article

André Willis

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Alexander graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1920 and Harvard Law School in 1923, a time when very few African Americans gained admittance to Ivy League schools. Alexander enjoyed a successful career in private practice, directly challenging racism and discrimination and helping end segregation in a number of Philadelphia institutions, before becoming counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Between 1933 and 1935 Alexander served as president of the National Bar Association and sought a federal appointment. Although the prevailing racial climate made it difficult for him to break into national politics, Alexander was appointed honorary consul to the Republic of Haiti in 1938. He was considered for an ambassadorship to Ethiopia in 1951, but although he had President Truman's support, he was not confirmed. From 1951 to 1958 Alexander committed himself to ...

Article

David Alvin Canton

lawyer and judge, was the third of five children born to Hillard Boone Alexander, a laborer from Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and Virginia Pace, from Essex County, Virginia. Alexander's parents were born slaves, but were freed by the Thirteenth Amendment following the Civil War. In 1880 they migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they lived in the Seventh Ward, a community that would later be made famous by W. E. B. Du Bois's seminal 1899 study The Philadelphia Negro. In 1903Alexander's mother died of pneumonia. Because his father worked long hours, Alexander and his siblings moved to North Philadelphia to live with his maternal aunt, Georgia Chandler Pace From the age of seven Alexander attended school and worked at various jobs including dockworker newspaper boy general helper at the Metropolitan Opera House in North Philadelphia Pullman porter and when he was in his early twenties ...

Article

Andre D. Vann

lawyer and judge, was born in Smithfield, North Carolina, the youngest of the three children of Reverend Joseph C. Melton, a Baptist minister and teacher, and Alian A. Reynolds Melton. She received her early education in the public school system of Danville, Virginia, and at the age of fifteen graduated from the James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1937 she graduated from the neighboring North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College with a bachelor's degree in music. The following year, at the age of eighteen, she married Girardeau Alexander, a surgeon, and had a son, Girardeau Alexander III.

Alexander worked as a mathematics and history teacher and directed music in South Carolina and North Carolina for four years before deciding that music would not be her lifelong vocation Instead she longed for a career in law despite the profession s being largely ...

Article

Johnie D. Smith

Macon Bolling Allen was born A. Macon Bolling in Indiana; the names of his parents and exact date of birth are unknown. He changed his name to Macon Bolling Allen by act of the Massachusetts legislature on 26 January 1844. Details of Allen's early life and education are sketchy and contradictory. His birth name is given in some sources as Malcolm B. Allen, and his birthplace as South Carolina. Evidence suggests that he lived in Maine and Massachusetts as a young man. Maine denied his initial application to the Maine bar because of allegations that he was not a state citizen, but he purportedly ran a Portland business before 1844. It is known that he read law in the Maine offices of two white abolitionist lawyers, Samuel E. Sewell and General Samuel Fessenden and that the latter promoted his admission to the Maine bar in ...

Article

Johnie D. Smith

lawyer and judge, was born A. Macon Bolling in Indiana; the names of his parents and the exact date of his birth are unknown. He changed his name to Macon Bolling Allen by an act of the Massachusetts legislature on 26 January 1844. Details of Allen's early life and education are sparse and contradictory. His birth name is given in some sources as Malcolm B. Allen, and his birthplace as South Carolina. Evidence suggests that he lived in Maine and Massachusetts as a young man. Maine denied his initial application to the Maine bar because of allegations that he was not a state citizen, but he purportedly ran a Portland business before 1844. It is known that he read law in the Maine offices of two white abolitionist lawyers, Samuel E. Sewell and General Samuel Fessenden and that Fessenden promoted his admission to the Maine ...

Article

Sibyl Collins Wilson

lawyer, State Supreme Court Justice, mayor of Detroit, Michigan, and president of the American Bar Association, was born in Detroit to Ernest and Frances Archer, and was raised in Cassopolis, Michigan. Determined to raise himself from poverty, and encouraged by his parents to value education, Archer was steadfast in his studies. He graduated from Cassopolis High School in 1959 and entered Western Michigan University that fall. While attending Western Michigan he pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the first black collegiate fraternal organization. He graduated in 1965.

Archer had a desire to teach, so he relocated to Detroit and took a position in the Detroit schools teaching and assisting emotionally disturbed students. He met Trudy Duncombe, another young teacher, during this tenure, and they married on 17 June 1967 Although dedicated to education Archer began to prepare himself for another level of public service when he entered ...

Article

Edward Telles

who became the president of the Brazilian Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal or STF) from 2012 to 2014, was born Joaquim Benedito Barbosa Gomes to Joaquim Barbosa Gomes and Benedita da Silva Gomes, a bricklayer and a housewife, respectively, in Paracatu, Minas Gerais, on 7 October 1954, the first of eight children.

At 16, he left for Brasilia to enter secondary schooling, where he began to work as a graphics typesetter—first at Brasilia’s pioneer newspapers Correio Braziliense and Jornal de Brasília and then in the Brazilian Senate. Throughout his elementary and secondary education, he attended public schools. Having developed an early interest in foreign languages, people, and cultures, Barbosa would eventually live in several countries and become fluent in five languages (Portuguese, French, German, English, and Spanish).

Barbosa began law school at the University of Brasilia in 1975 While pursuing his legal studies he worked at the ...

Article

Arturo Victoriano

was born on 5 April 1961 in Río San Juan, Dominican Republic. She graduated cum laude in 1988 with a doctorate in law from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD), after which she pursued post-graduate studies in political science at UASD (its Santiago campus), graduating with a Post-Grado en Ciencias Políticas (equivalent to a one-year master’s degree) in 1994. She became a specialist in alternative conflict resolution. She is a former practicing attorney with an extended practice in the firms of Bonilla-Hernández (1989–1990), Centro Bonilla-Estrella (1990–1995), and Oficina Jurídica Díaz-Bonilla (1992–2002), serving various areas of the law, as is customary in the Dominican Republic. A longstanding member of the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD), she entered politics, becoming elected to the lower house of Congress (Chamber of Deputies) for the province of Santiago during the periods 1994–1998, 1998–2002 and ...

Article

Cheryl Dudley

attorney, judge, and civil rights activist, was born in Huntington, West Virginia, to the Reverend William Roderick Brown and Maria Wiggins Rowlett Brown. He attended Virginia Union University in Richmond and in 1923 earned a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh, graduating third in a class of twenty-two students.

Following his graduation in October 1923, Brown joined the Allegheny County Bar Association and became active in his community to reduce crime and improve the quality of life for youth. He married Wilhelmina Byrd in 1927, and the couple had one son, Byrd Rowlett Brown who also became a well known attorney and civil rights activist in Pittsburgh During the 1930s when there was an increase in crime as a result of the Great Depression Brown chaired the Friendly Service Bureau a committee established to help reduce crime in Pittsburgh Along with the help of the ...

Article

Graeme Reid

South African human rights lawyer, Rhodes Scholar, and a Justice of South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, was born in Pretoria, South Africa, on 15 February 1953, to Kenneth Hughson Cameron, an electrician, and Salome Schoeman Cameron. He completed his schooling at Pretoria Boys’ High School and obtained a BA Law and an Honors degree in Latin, both cum laude, at Stellenbosch University. He lectured in Latin and Classical Studies before studying at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. At Oxford he obtained a BA in Jurisprudence and the Bachelor of Civil Law, earning first-class honors and the top law prizes. Cameron received his LLB from the University of South Africa, and won the medal for the best law graduate.

Cameron practiced at the Johannesburg Bar from 1983 to 1994. From 1986 he was a human rights lawyer based at the University of the Witwatersrand s Centre ...

Article

Boyd Childress

lawyer, jurist, and ardent civil rights activist who has worked for equal rights since high school. Carter was born in Careyville, Florida, but his family moved to Newark, New Jersey, soon after his birth. When Carter was one year old, his father died, leaving his mother (who worked as a domestic) to raise eight children. As a senior at East Orange High School, Carter successfully ended segregation of the school's swimming pool (a hollow victory as the school closed the pool rather than integrate). Although encounters with racism did not discourage the youthful Carter, he admitted that he was delusional to think that race was irrelevant. Graduating from historically black Lincoln University in 1937 and Howard Law School in 1940, Carter earned a master's degree in law from Columbia (1941). At Howard, Carter met Dean William Hastie who was a mentor to Carter later ...

Article

John R. Howard

attorney and federal judge, was born in Careyville, Florida, the youngest of eight children of Robert Carter and Annie Martin. Shortly after his birth, Robert's family joined tens of thousands of blacks migrating from the rural South to the big cities of the North, seeking a better life. Within months of settling in Newark, New Jersey, his father died, leaving his mother a widow at age thirty-nine and the sole support of a large family. Working as a domestic by day and taking in laundry at night, she managed to keep the family together.

Carter excelled as a student, encouraged by his mother, who hoped he would train to be a minister. In his teen years she moved the family to East Orange, New Jersey, to escape the increasing decay and desperation of Newark during the Great Depression. Graduating from East Orange High School in 1933 he entered ...

Article

Donnamaria Culbreth

lawyer, judge, professor of law, and civil rights activist, was born on a plantation near Shreveport, Louisiana. Nothing is known about Cobb's parents, except that his mother was white and his father black. Orphaned at an early age, Cobb worked various jobs and was eventually able to save enough money to attend private schools. Cobb studied at Straight University (later Dillard University) in New Orleans and Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. After relocating to Washington, D.C., Cobb continued his education and graduated from Howard University with a bachelor of law degree in 1899. In 1900 Cobb was awarded a JD from Howard University School of Law.

Cobb was admitted to the Washington, D.C., bar in 1901 and began practicing law. His practice primarily involved handling racial discrimination cases on behalf of black Americans. In 1907 Cobb was appointed special assistant in the U S Department of Justice and ...

Article

Joseph Wilson

a leading African American attorney, judge, and congressman from Detroit, Michigan. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, George Crockett graduated from Morehouse College and the University of Michigan Law School. Subsequently he started a law practice and later was a cofounder of the National Lawyers Guild, the nation's first racially integrated lawyers' organization which he then served as vice president. In 1939, Crockett became the first African American attorney in the United States Department of Labor and, later, in the Federal Employment Practices Commission. In 1943, he directed the United Auto Workers' Fair Practices Commission, which sought to prevent white workers from engaging in “hate” strikes designed to bar black workers from working in auto plants.

In 1946 in Detroit, he helped form the country's first integrated law firm (Goodman, Eden, Crockett and Robb) and served as a partner until 1966. In 1949 Crockett was sentenced ...

Article

Ruth E. Martin

activist, attorney, judge, and United States congressman, was born in Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida, the son of Minnie Amelia Jenkins and George William Crockett Sr. The former was a licensed public school teacher, and the latter a railroad carpenter for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and Baptist church pastor.

George Crockett Jr. graduated from Morehouse College in 1931, and the University of Michigan Law School in 1934, before returning to Jacksonville. He was one of a small number of practicing African American attorneys in Florida at this time. In 1934 he married Ethelene Crockett, with whom he would have three children, Elizabeth Crockett Hicks, George W. Crockett III, and Ethelene Crockett Jones.

Initiating a lifetime at the forefront of the civil rights legal struggle, Crockett was the first African American lawyer employed by the U.S. Department of Labor, from 1939 ...

Article

Born in Jacksonville, Florida, George William Crockett, Jr. graduated with a B.A. degree from Morehouse College in 1931 and a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1934. After several years in private practice, in 1939 he became the first African American lawyer at the U.S. Department of Labor. Beginning in 1943 Crockett served as a hearing examiner for the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC), a federal agency that attempted to secure more jobs for African Americans in wartime industries. His work with the FEPC led to a position as head of the United Auto Worker's Fair Practices Committee, which sought to eliminate racism in factories.

Throughout his long career Crockett acted according to his often-unpopular beliefs, which led to occasional controversy. In 1949, while once again in private practice (as a founding partner in the first law firm with an integrated partnership in Detroit Michigan ...

Article

Robert Hinton

lawyer, judge, politician, and civil rights advocate, was born Hubert Thomas Delaney in Raleigh, North Carolina, the eighth of ten children of Nanny Logan Delany and the Episcopal Suffragan Bishop Henry Beard Delany.

Until he was fourteen years old Delany assumed that he would follow his father into the priesthood of the Episcopal Church. But in 1915 Delany visited Christ Church on Capitol Square in Raleigh to hear a choir that accompanied a prominent bishop from New York. Much to his surprise he was guided into the gallery by an usher who asked the young man why he didn't attend Saint Ambrose, the colored Episcopal church.

Having grown up on the campus of historically black Saint Augustine's College where his parents taught, Hubert Delany had until that moment been protected from the rigid system of racial segregation that gripped North Carolina in the early twentieth ...

Article

Erin L. Thompson

jurist and activist. Hubert Thomas Delany was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. His father, Henry B. Delany, was a former slave and a bishop of the Episcopal Church; his mother, Nanny J. Delany, was a teacher. While attending the City College of New York (graduated 1923) and New York University School of Law (graduated 1926), Delany worked at tobacco farms in Connecticut and taught in Harlem elementary schools. His first wife, Clarissa Scott Delany, from Tuskegee, Alabama, was a poet and a social worker with the National Urban League and Woman's City Club of New York; she died in 1927.

In 1929 Delany unsuccessfully ran for Congress in Manhattan's Twenty-first District, which included much of Harlem and Washington Heights. His early career was not otherwise political, concentrating mostly on private practice. Among his most well-known clients was the singer Marian Anderson with ...

Article

Mary S. Lederer and Elizabeth Macharia-Mokobi

Botswana lawyer, judge, and women’s and human rights activist, was born on 23 April 1959, in Mochudi in the Kgatleng District of Botswana, 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the capital Gaborone, to Phiri and Malefshane. One of six children, Dow received her early education in Mochudi and attended law school at the University of Botswana and Swaziland and later at Edinburgh University, qualifying as an attorney in 1983. She immediately took employment as a criminal prosecutor with the Attorney General’s Chambers in Gaborone. On 7 March 1984, she married Peter Nathan Dow, an American national. They set up home in Mochudi with her daughter Cheshe Maitumelo (born in 1979) and welcomed two more children: a son, Tumisang Tad, in 1985 and another daughter, Natasha Selemo, two years later.

In 1986 Dow left the employ of the government and entered into private practice as a partner ...