Federal Judge Ann Claire Williams will tell her story of breaking boundaries as a woman of color during her 37-year legal career in a talk titled “Reaching Back, Lifting Up” slated from noon to 1 p.m. Jan. 24 in the Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium at Wayne State University Law School, 471 W. Palmer, Detroit.
The event, sponsored by Wayne Law’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, is free and open to the public. Lunch will be available.
Williams, who was appointed by President Clinton in 1999 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, grew up in Detroit. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Wayne State, and worked as a third-grade teacher in Detroit public schools while she worked on her master’s degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Michigan. She earned her J.D. from Notre Dame Law School, and worked as a law clerk for Judge Robert Sprecher of the Seventh Circuit. She was one of the first two African-American law clerks at that court.
Williams has a lot of “firsts” in her resume.
She spent nine years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago, where she was the first African-American woman to serve as the office as supervisor. She went on to become the first chief of the Organized Drug Enforcement Task Force. She also worked as an adjunct professor at Northwestern University School of Law and at John Marshall Law School.
In 1985, she was nominated by President Reagan to a newly created seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois — the first African-American woman appointed to that court. When Clinton appointed her to the Seventh Circuit, she became the first African-American woman to serve on the bench of that court.
Her achievement and her public service have earned her many awards, including, in 2010, the 28th annual Edward J. Dewitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award, which is considered the highest award a U.S. judge can receive. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of the University of Notre Dame and as a member of the Advisory Board of Lawyers Without Borders. She also has served as a member of international training delegations, teaching legal advocacy courses to prosecutors in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
Parking for Williams’ talk will be available for $6 in Structure 1 across from the Law School.