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Home » News » Myron H. Thompson, Life and Times of a Renowned Federal Court Judge

Myron H. Thompson, Life and Times of a Renowned Federal Court Judge

Posted on July 29, 2020 - 17:07

Article written by Gary Banks of the Darien Men's Association and graciously shared with the ALMD. The accompanying video is a recording of Tom Igoe interviewing Judge Myron H. Thomson on July 29, 2020. Download a transcript here

Established in 1977, and now in its 42nd year, the mission of the Darien Men's Association (DMA) is to provide a forum in which retired and semi-retired men can find good fellowship, friendship, and fun amidst a range of activities designed to nourish both body and mind while promoting a sense of community.

Judge Myron H. Thompson is a United States District Court Judge for the Middle District of Alabama. He was nominated to that seat in September 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. He served as Chief Judge of the Court from 1991 to 1998.

Judge Thompson is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School. He served as Assistant Attorney General of Alabama from 1972 to 1974. He was the first African-American Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alabama, the first African-American bar examiner for the State, and the second African-American federal judge in the State. Judge Thompson was in private practice from 1974 until 1980.

Over the course of Judge Thompson’s 40-year career, he has presided over many challenging cases, including those involving separation of church and state, employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, voting rights and racial discrimination in the appointment of polling officials, policing practices and the use of deadly force, racial diversity of Alabama’s post-secondary education system, redistricting issues in the City of Montgomery, gay and lesbian rights, restrictions on abortion, racial diversity in the ranks of state troopers, and troubled conditions in the Alabama prison system.

Throughout his life, Judge Thompson has represented an extraordinary combination of courage and integrity. One of the last generation of children exposed to polio, he was stricken at an early age, bedridden or confined to a wheelchair at first, but fought back, ultimately being able to walk with only a minor limp. Judge Thompson has said that the challenges of polio, as well as growing up in the Jim Crow South — going to segregated schools, using segregated water fountains, and being treated as sub human — made him who he is.

In 2017, for having made a substantial contribution to public service and the legal profession, Judge Thompson received the Yale Law School Award of Merit, the highest award the law school may give to a graduate and faculty member. He was also named a 2017 Alabama Humanities Foundation fellow in honor of his noteworthy achievements and commitment to the advancement of the humanities in Alabama. In 2015, Judge Thompson received the National Public Service Award from Stanford Law School, in recognition that his “work on behalf of the public has had national impact.” In 2013, he was awarded the Thurgood Marshall Award by the National Bar Association’s Judicial Council in recognition of his “personal contributions and extraordinary commitment to the advancement of civil rights and for being a role model for members of the bench and bar.” And he received the 2005 Mark De Wolfe Howe Award from the Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review “for his Unyielding Commitment to Advancing the Personal Freedoms and Human Dignities of the American People.”

Judge Thompson and DMA member Tom Igoe, who were roommates as undergraduates at Yale, [engaged] in a wide-ranging dialogue about (1) their fundamentally different backgrounds and evolving life-long friendship; (2) Judge Thompson’s perspectives, developed in his early years, that shaped the course of his life; (3) his return to Alabama to practice law and appointment to the bench as the youngest Federal judge in the US; (4) his experience as a jurist serving in a Southern state; and (5) his abiding philosophy on the importance of public service.

 

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