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George N. Leighton
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

In office
February 27, 1986 – December 1, 1987
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

In office
February 4, 1976 – February 27, 1986
Appointed by Gerald Ford
Preceded by Abraham Lincoln Marovitz
Succeeded by James Henry Alesia
Personal details
Born George Neves Leitão
(1912-10-22)October 22, 1912
New Beford, Massachusetts
Died June 6, 2018(2018-06-06) (aged 105)
Brockton, Massachusetts
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery

George Neves Leighton (born George Neves Leitão; October 22, 1912 – June 6, 2018) was an American jurist who served as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Early life and marriage[edit | edit source]

George Neves Leitão was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts to Ana Silva Garcia and António Neves Leitão, both originally immigrants from Brava, Cape Verde.[1] Leitão learned Cape Verdean Creole and English as a child. His surname was anglicised to "Leighton" by a teacher who claimed she could not pronounce his last name "Leitão". His parents agreed.[2] He grew up in New Bedford and Cape Cod, leaving high school before graduation in order to work on oil tankers. He continued his studies independently and through night school classes until he could enter Howard University.[3] Leighton married Virginia Berry Quivers; the couple had two daughters, Virginia Anne and Barbara Elaine. After her death in 1992, he did not remarry.[4] At the time of his death in June 2018, Leighton had five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.[5][6] He was a tournament chess player.[7] Leighton turned 100 in October 2012.[8][9] Leighton lived at the Veterans Administration Center in Brockton, Massachusetts.[10]

Career[edit | edit source]

Leighton graduated in 1940 from Howard University, a historically black college, with an Artium Baccalaureus degree. In April 1940, Leighton received a hand written note from then Dean of Harvard Law School, James McCauley Landis to visit the law school. The following next weekend, he took a bus to Cambridge and called the dean's office and was allowed to see him. It was there, that Leighton advocated for himself to be admitted by telling Dean Landis his life story. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Dean Landis told him that he would see him in September.[11] He started law school at Harvard University in September 1940 but was interrupted by the United States' entry into World War II. From 1942 to 1945, during World War II, Leighton had served in the United States Army, achieving the rank of Captain and being awarded the Asiatic Pacific Service Metal, Bronze Star. After the war he returned to Harvard Law School and earned a Bachelor of Laws in 1946.[3]

Leighton was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1946. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1946 and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1947. Leighton was in private practice from 1946 to 1964, aside from the period during which he served as Assistant State Attorney General of Illinois (1949 to 1951). He served as a Master in Chancery of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois from 1960 to 1964. Leighton was also involved in the Democratic Party.[12] Leighton was elected as a judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, serving from 1964 to 1969. He was appointed as a judge with the First District Appellate Court of Illinois, serving from 1969 to 1976. Leighton was the first African American to hold this position in the State of Illinois.[3][13]

Federal judicial service[edit | edit source]

On December 19, 1975, President Gerald Ford nominated Leighton to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. This was a seat being vacated by Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz. Leighton was confirmed on February 2, 1976, and received his commission on February 4, 1976. He served until November 30, 1987. After his retirement from federal service, he returned to the practice of law with the firm of Earl L. Neal & Associates.[13] He retired from the law firm of Neal & Leroy at age 99.[14]

Other service[edit | edit source]

Leighton became a Life Member in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1964. He had served the Chicago branch of the NAACP for several years as president and general counsel.[15] He served as a Trustee of Notre Dame University from 1979 to 1983 when he was elevated to Trustee Emeritus (1983).[16] He was an Adjunct Professor of Law at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago from 1964 to 2004. He taught Criminal Procedure and Prisoners' Rights.[15] Leighton also served as an Overseer of Harvard College from 1983 to 1989.[17]

Death[edit | edit source]

Leighton died on June 6, 2018, while being treated for pneumonia at a veterans hospital in Brockton.[14] On November 5, 2018 he was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.[18]

Legacy and honors[edit | edit source]

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The factual accuracy of this article may be compromised due to out-of-date information

  • In 2005 the United States Postal Service located at 695 Pleasant Street in his hometown of New Bedford, Massachusetts, was renamed as the "Honorable Judge George N. Leighton Post Office Building" in his honor.
  • In 2009, the Illinois Supreme Court established "The Honorable George N. Leighton Justice Award." The award recognizes one who has given exceptional service to the legal community and exhibits the qualities that personified Judge Leighton's character, service and legal career.
  • In 2012, the Cook County Criminal Courthouse at 2600 South California Avenue, in Chicago, was renamed in his honor as "The Hon. George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building."[19]

Quotes[edit | edit source]

The difference between God and prosecuting attorneys is that God doesn't think himself a prosecuting attorney....[20]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Juiz de origem cabo-verdiana homenageado nos EUA" (in pt). A Semana online. January 11, 2009. http://asemana.sapo.cv/spip.php?article38270. 
  2. "George Leighton became US District Court Judge" Archived 2012-10-24 at the Wayback Machine., African-American Registry
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Juiz de origem cabo-verdiana homenageado nos EUA" Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine., A Semana, 11 Janeiro 2009; accessed 14 January 2017 (Portuguese)
  4. 'Virginia Quivers Leighton-obituary,' Chicago Tribune, November 26, 1992
  5. [1], Jonathan Pollard blog
  6. [2], Chicago Lawyer Magazine, 01 July 2010
  7. [3], Chicago Chess blog
  8. Manson, Patricia (2012-10-22). "Leighton reaches the century mark". Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. Archived from the original on 2013-01-02. https://archive.is/20130102092816/http://www.chicagolawbulletin.com/News-Extra/2012/10/Leighton-10192012pam.aspx. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  9. Lauraann Wood (2016-04-27). "State high court commission honors Bauer". Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. http://www.chicagolawbulletin.com/Archives/2016/04/27/Bauer-award-4-27-16.aspx. Retrieved 2016-07-12. 
  10. 'George Leighton, pioneering African-American judge, lawyer turns 104,' Chicago Tribune, Steve Schmadeke, October 22, 2016
  11. "Harvard Law Today November 2005". https://hls.harvard.edu/content/uploads/2015/12/11524_PDF.pdf. 
  12. "A Biographical Sketch of George N. Leighton". http://www.jonathanpollard.org/2001/100501c.htm. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Loop Law Firm - Neal & Leroy, LLC - Chicago IL". http://www.nealandleroy.com/firm-history/. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Olumhense, Patrick M. O'Connell, Ese. "George Leighton, criminal courthouse namesake, recalled as inspiration for generations: 'His work is enduring'". http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/obituaries/ct-met-george-leighton-dies-20180606-story.html. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 "George N". http://www.vaiden.net/leighton.html. 
  16. ENR/PAZ, University of Notre Dame. "Board of Trustees - Leadership - About ND - University of Notre Dame". https://www.nd.edu/about/leadership/board-of-trustees/. 
  17. Eun-jung, Shin (1 September 2015). "Verita$". PM Press. https://books.google.com/books?id=5YVWCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA25&dq=when+did+george+leighton+serve+as+overseer+of+Harvard+college&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjpjbbP_8HbAhUCUKwKHQmcD9gQ6AEILjAB#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  18. "Judge George N. Leighton Laid to Rest at Arlington National Cemetery", United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, November 5, 2018
  19. George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse Directory Cook County building named for legendary judge
  20. Address to NAACP, November, 1964

Sources[edit | edit source]

  • George Neves Leighton at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.

External links[edit | edit source]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Abraham Lincoln Marovitz
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Succeeded by
James Henry Alesia

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