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Supreme Court Law Day Ceremony 2004

Even with additional seats, the state Supreme Court courtroom was filled for a Law Day ceremony held on May 3rd which honored 21 African-Americans, who set the pace for integration in their respective fields. This year’s Law Day theme was the 50th anniversary of the landmark school desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education.
 

 
The ceremony’s keynote speaker, and honoree, Yale Professor Stephen L. Carter, discussed his days as a law clerk for United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Professor Carter described his years with Justice Marshall as "My most treasured years." The professor shared warm memories of time spent with the legendary jurist.

Chief Justice William J. Sullivan opened the program with a welcoming address. Associate Justice Flemming L. Norcott, Jr., another Law Day honoree, introduced Professor Carter.

The Chief Justice presented the awards, with a brief comment on why each individual was being cited. Those honored included:

  • The Honorable Boce W. Barlow Jr., who in 1949 was the first African-American appointed to the old municipal court bench. He was also the first African-American elected to the State Senate.
  • Adrianne Baughns-Wallace, the first woman and African-American news anchor of a major newscast in Southern New England. She is currently the Director of Financial Education for the Office of the State Treasurer.
  • Edgar F. Beckham served as the first African-American Chairman of the Connecticut State Board of Education.
  • Dr. David G. Carter Sr. became the fifth president of Eastern Connecticut State University in April 1988, marking the first time an African-American was named president of a four-year institution of higher education in Connecticut.
  • F. Thurston Fields was one of the first African-American Police Chiefs in Connecticut, serving in Jewett City.
  • Dr. Edythe J. Gaines was the Superintendent of Schools in Hartford and was among the first African-American superintendent of schools in Connecticut.
  • The Honorable Robert D. Glass in 1987 was named an associate justice of the state Supreme Court, marking the first time an African-American had been appointed to Connecticut’s highest court. Justice Glass died in November 2001 at age 78.
  • Wilfred "Spike" Johnson in 1958 became the first African-American elected to the Connecticut General Assembly. He was also the first African-American to preside over the Connecticut House of Representatives. Mr. Johnson died in February 1972 at age 51.
  • Gerald Lamb was elected State Treasurer in 1962, the first African-American elected to that position. He was also the first African-American to serve as State Banking Commissioner.
  • The Honorable Robert Levister was the first African-American named to the Connecticut Superior Court. Judge Levister died in October 1992 at age 74.
  • John F. Merchant was the first African-American law school graduate from the University of Virginia. He was also the first African-American to serve on the Executive Committee of the United States Golf Association.
  • The Honorable Flemming L. Norcott Jr. was the first African-American appointed to the state Appellate Court in 1987. In 1992 he was elevated to his current position as Associate Justice of the state Supreme Court.
  • Maxie L. Patterson was the first African-American Chief of Police for Windsor, Connecticut, a position he served with honor from 1979 to 1986. Currently he is Executive Director of the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund.
  • Colonel Joseph A. Perry, Jr. was the first African-American to rise to the rank of Deputy Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Safety and was the first African-American Colonel leading the Division of State Police.
  • John Bradley Stewart Jr. was Hartford’s first African-American Fire Chief and he was the first African-American appointed to that prestigious position in New England.
  • The Honorable Alvin W. Thompson was the first African-American United States District Court Judge for the District of Connecticut.
  • The Honorable Thomas G. West was one of the first African-American Administrative Judges in Connecticut, serving as the Danbury Administrative Judge from 1988 to 1993. In April 2002 he was appointed to the state Appellate Court.
  • Clifford J. Willis was named Chief of the New Britain Police Department, becoming one of the first African-Americans to hold that position in the state. Mr. Willis died in November 2001.
  • Katherine "Kay" Wyrick was one of the first African-Americans to receive the prestigious Connecticut Jefferson Award, given to people who go above and beyond the call of duty volunteering in their communities.
  • John W. Hogan, Jr., president of the Connecticut Bar Association, presented congratulatory remarks.

And a reception for the honorees and their families and friends took place in the Museum of Connecticut History.

 

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