08:07, June 08 51 0 abajournal.com

2018-06-08 08:07:06
Former federal judge George Leighton, a civil rights pioneer, dies at 105

George Leighton, a former Chicago federal judge who fought for civil rights, has died at the age of 105.

Leighton died Wednesday after being hospitalized in Massachusetts for pneumonia, report the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. He had retired from the federal bench in 1987 and practiced law until the age of 99.

Leighton only had a seventh-grade education when he managed to win a scholarship competition to gain admission to Howard University. He persuaded the school’s president to admit him despite his lack of a high school degree. He attended Harvard Law School and served in World War II.

After graduation, Leighton practiced law in Illinois and worked in the state attorney general’s office. He won election as a Cook County judge, became the first black judge on an Illinois appeals court, and was appointed to the federal bench in 1975, according to a statement by Chief U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo.

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans also released a statement. “Judge Leighton came to Chicago in 1946 at a time when an African-American man could neither rent an office downtown nor hail a taxi in the Loop,” Evans said. “He made a name for himself as an attorney who fought for voting rights, integrated schools, fair housing and equal access to jury service.”

In 2012, criminal courthouse in Chicago was named in Leighton’s honor.