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Sept. 11, 2009
Former Ohio Judges Honored as Members of First Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Class

Judge Carl B. Stokes Justice Robert M. Duncan Two former members of the Ohio judiciary were named to the inaugural Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame class Thursday by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

Former Supreme Court of Ohio Justice Robert M. Duncan and former Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Carl B. Stokes were among 10 citizens honored at a formal ceremony for their “significant contributions to the progress of civil rights and equal justice in Ohio.” The program also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Ohio Civil Rights Act and the establishment of the commission.

Justice Duncan, the first African-American on the Supreme Court, served from Jan. 2, 1969 to Nov. 26, 1971. He was appointed by Gov. James Rhodes and elected in 1970, becoming the first African-American to win a statewide election. He later went on to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Military Appeals and U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Two of the more important cases in which he participated included the My Lai massacre trial of Lt. William Calley and writing the 1977 opinion in Penick v. Columbus Board of Education that desegregated Columbus Public Schools.

During a keynote speech in February at the Ohio Judicial Center in honor of Black History Month, Justice Duncan recounted his personal experiences of growing up in segregated times and the incredible changes he’s witnessed in his lifetime. As an example, he compared his first experience at Ohio State University in 1945 in which he never had an African-American professor to becoming chairman of the OSU board of trustees during the 2006-07 academic year. He described his life as an “absolutely amazing American odyssey.”

Stokes, who served as a judge from 1983 to 1994, was the first African-American mayor of any major U.S. city when he served as Cleveland’s mayor from 1967 to 1971. He also was the first African-American Democrat elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1962 and served three terms. The U.S. Federal Courthouse Tower in Cleveland is named for him.

Access more information on the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

Contact: Chris Davey or Bret Crow at 614.387.9250.