9th Annual MLK Celebration Keynote
A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.
Judge, U.S. Federal District Court, Philadelphia, PA
Legal scholar Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. was a judge of the U.S. Federal District Court in Philadelphia, PA. He began his undergraduate work in engineering at Purdue University, where a racial incident led him to change his career path to law.
He transferred to Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where one of his classmates was Coretta Scott, the future wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Higginbotham became involved with the campus branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and eventually served as college chapter president and was later elected President of the Philadelphia NAACP chapter, one of the largest in the nation.
In 1962, at the age of 34, he was nominated by President John F. Kennedy to serve a seven-year term on the Federal Trade Commission, becoming the youngest person ever to be named a Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission as well as the first African American to be a member at the commission level of a federal regulatory agency.
Judge Higginbotham, a prolific writer, published extensively in scholarly journals. By 1983, he had authored a book dealing with law and race in America, entitled In the Matter of Color-Race and American Legal Process: The Colonial Period (1978), and later, Shades of Freedom (1996). In 1989, he was elevated to Chief Judge of the Third Circuit Court, a position he held until his retirement in 1993.