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African American History Month: Videos Recall Judges’ Challenges

Profiles of seven African American federal judges, who overcame various obstacles on their path to the bench, are featured on the US Courts YouTube channel in recognition of African American history month.

The videos, part of the U.S. courts’ “Pathways to the Bench” series, recount the judges’ personal exposure to life challenges while growing up, including segregation, racial discrimination and violence.

Reggie B. Walton, U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia, is newly featured among the collected profiles. A talented football player whose college injury took him out of the game, Walton discovered his intellectual abilities and rigorously applied them to getting a law degree.

As an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. Walton earned a reputation for diligence and courtroom success that brought him to the attention of the White House. He was appointed to judgeships by three Presidents and named to high-profile public service assignments by two Chief Justices of the United States.

His advice for facing adversity:  Don’t let outside forces define you or determine your future.

The other profiled ‘Pathways’ judges are:

  • U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Roger L. Gregory, who attended segregated schools in Virginia, but formed lifelong friendships when his high school was integrated.   
  • U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Ann C. Williams, whose parents worked in lesser jobs in Detroit despite holding college degrees.   
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeffery P. Hopkins, who moved to Ohio after his uncle was murdered by a Georgia sheriff, whose conviction was later overturned
  • U.S. District Judge Julie A. Robinson, who was born in Topeka, Kansas, the city where Brown v. Board of Education began. At age 5, she decided to become a lawyer, an ambition her father encouraged.
  • U.S. District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson, who battled polio and childhood paralysis. He says that discrimination over his disabilities was even more severe than for his race.   
  • Retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys, who worked in the Mississippi cotton fields before serving in the Marines and entering law school. 

The videos and other educational materials can be found in the Educational Resources section. The site also has information on annual observances honored by the federal courts, including African American History Month.

In addition, a recent video describes how the federal courts ended segregated transportation after Rosa Parks and others launched the famed Montgomery bus boycott.