Eighth Circuit Historical Society

The Historical Society of the United States Courts in the Eighth Circuit

Judge Theodore McMillianThe Honorable Theodore McMillian
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Biographical Brochure
Portrait Ceremony Program
Permanment Exhibit
Traveling Display

Theodore McMillian was born in 1919, the great-grandson of a slave, and grew up in an impoverished area of St. Louis as the oldest of ten children. Despite graduating first in class from Saint Louis University School of Law, racial discrimination made it difficult for him to find a position in a law firm. Determined to practice law, he and Alphonse Lynch, the first African American to graduate from Saint Louis University’s law school (McMillian was the second), established the firm of Lynch & McMillian. Over the course of his remarkable career, McMillian would break down long-standing racial barriers to rise to the second highest court in the nation.

He was the first African American to serve:       

  • Missouri’s state circuit court, by appointment to St. Louis City Circuit Court, 22nd Judicial District, 1956       
  • Missouri’s state appellate court, by appointment to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, 1972       
  • The federal bench in the seven states of the Eighth Circuit, by appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, 1978

    Judge McMillian died on January 18, 2006, leaving behind a legacy as a man of firsts, an advocate of civil rights, a wise mentor and supporter for the many individuals who needed a helping hand, and a man of humility. A sign in his office bore his credo: "It is much more important to be human than to be important."

    The west hall of the 27th floor of the Thomas F. Eagleton United States Courthouse in St. Louis is dedicated to an exhibit honoring Judge McMillian.

  • Judge McMillian standing by his portrait
    Judge McMillian by his portrait, painted by artist Gilbert Early, on the day of its unveiling, September 10, 2003.
    Click for larger image. (Photo credit: Wiley Price, St. Louis American)

    Judge McMillian exhibit   Judge McMillian exhibit   Judge McMillian exhibit  

    Judge McMillian's permanent exhibit in the west hall of the 27th floor of the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in St. Louis.
    Click on an image to access a larger view.

    Judge McMillian exhibit   Judge McMillian exhibit  
    Detail of left and right sides of south wall.
    Click on an image for larger view.

    Judge Theodore McMillian traveling display     Biographical booklet
    Judge McMillian's traveling display and accompanying biographical brochure, created by the U.S. Courts Library 8th Circuit.
    Click to view larger image of display and access brochure.


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