March/April 2006 issue

Judge Theodore McMillian Memorial Session and Permanent Display

by Joan Voelker, Archives Librarian

On April 17, 2006, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held a memorial session in honor of Judge Theodore McMillian. The special proceedings were held in the en banc courtroom on the 28th floor of the Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri and were viewed via closed circuit television in a 27th floor courtroom and the 22nd floor multipurpose room.

The session was attended by approximately 235 of Judge McMillian’s family, friends, legal colleagues, law clerks, as well as court staff and judges from all levels of the 8th Circuit federal courts and the Missouri state courts. Chief U.S. Circuit Judge James B. Loken presided over the session, and career law clerk Julie Tang served as master of ceremonies. Speakers included the Hon. William Lacy Clay, U.S. House of Representative; Hon. Joseph J. Simeone, Judge McMillian’s law professor at Saint Louis University School of Law and colleague on the Missouri Court of Appeals; Hon. Lisa Van Amburg, on behalf of the law clerks; Douglas Copeland, President Missouri Bar; Hon. Marvin Teer, President Mound City Bar; Hon. Donald P. Lay, Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals; Beverly Ann Moss, on behalf

A reception followed in the lobbies of the 27th and 28th floors. The 28th floor lobby featured a video on Judge McMillian made by Saint Louis University and a table top exhibit and biographical booklet prepared by the U.S. Courts Library.

A permanent display honoring Judge McMillian’s life and contributions debuted on the west hall of the 27th floor. The north side of the exhibit features Judge McMillian’s portrait, federal commission, and a biographical summary. The south side of the display includes framed photos spanning the years of childhood to federal judgeship, awards, and a list of Judge McMillian’s achievements as the first African American in various capacities. Also, encased on the north side are Judge McMillian’s robe with striped sleeves, stole from an African American judges’ conference, ABA Spirit of Excellence Award, and a buffalo soldier bust the Judge kept on his desk in memory of his World War II service in that famous Army unit. The Circuit Executive’s Office and U.S. Courts Library staff worked with John Martin of Creative Art Gallery & Framing to create the exhibit.

Judge McMillian served as Missouri’s first African American state prosecutor, circuit (trial) judge, and appellate judge. He went on to become the first African American federal judge in the seven states of the Eighth Circuit by appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

He died on January 18, 2006, leaving behind a legacy as a man of firsts, as an advocate of civil rights, and as a wise mentor and supporter for the many individuals who needed a helping hand. Though he led an historic path of firsts, Theodore McMillian wanted to be remembered for helping those who followed behind. And despite the recognition he received for his accomplishments and humanity, he was also known for his abiding sense of modesty. A sign in his office bore his credo: "It is much more important to be human than to be important."

For more information on Judge McMillian’s life and contributions, see the biography prepared by the U.S. Courts Library Eighth Circuit. An audio recording of the proceedings of the memorial session is available on the Court of Appeals’ Internet site at* A video recording is available for circulation from the U.S. Courts Library, 314-244-2665.

*Requires Windows Media Player software. If when you click on the link you receive a pop up message saying that you need to connect to the Internet or insert a media device, follow these steps: Click on “Tools” on the Media Player main menu and from the drop down menu select “Options.” Under “Player settings,” insert a check mark by “Connect to the Internet (overrides other commands).” Close Media Player and then click on the link to the memorial proceedings.