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.
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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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