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Details | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

Illinois Supreme Court Holds Memorial for Justice Charles E. Freeman


September 29, 2020

On September 16, 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court honored the late Charles E. Freeman, the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court and serve as Chief Justice, at a memorial in Springfield. Justice Freeman served on the Supreme Court from 1990 to 2018. The video from the memorial is archived on the Court’s website.

Chief Justice Anne M. Burke gave opening remarks and shared memories of Justice Freeman, including being sworn-in by him when she first joined the Supreme Court.

The Honorable Robert R. Thomas, a recently Retired Justice of the Supreme Court, spoke and noted his close friendship with Justice Freeman despite their many differences in opinion both personally and professionally.

First District Appellate Justice Appellate Court Robert E. Gordon spoke about Justice Freeman’s passion for helping people and how they first met in the early 1960s and became lifelong friends.

The Honorable Carl McCormick, a Retired Justice from the First District Appellate Court, provided a prerecorded message in which he noted that he and Justice Freeman met as students at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago and recounted how Justice Freeman organized student study groups for the aspiring attorneys at the Law School. He noted Justice Freeman’s friendship with future Chicago Mayor Harold Washington as well as other influential political figures.

Mr. James D. Montgomery Esquire, an attorney and longtime friend of Justice Freeman, spoke of Justice Freeman’s public service and how significant the election of an African American to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Cook County Circuit Judge Thaddeus L. Wilson, who is the Chair of the Illinois Judicial Council, spoke in-person and described Justice Freeman as an optimist and a man of character who loomed large in the African American legal community.

Justice P. Scott Neville, who succeeded Justice Freeman on the Supreme Court when he retired in 2018, described Justice Freeman as a friend, mentor, loving family man, and a trailblazer in the African American community who was committed to diversity on the bench.

Chief Justice Burke concluded the ceremony by paying tribute to Justice Freeman’s family.