Judge Freddie Pitcher Jr.
Freddie Pitcher Jr., has a career of many firsts. He became the first African-American elected to a judgeship in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his election to the Baton Rouge City Court in a citywide election in April 1983. He is also the first African-American elected to the 19th Judicial District Court and the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal. He is the former Chancellor of the Southern University Law Center, serving from 2003 to 2015.
3:15 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Cavalier House Booksellers Tent
Breaking Barriers: A View from the Bench
In Breaking Barriers, Judge Freddie Pitcher Jr. describes how he made history in Baton Rouge by becoming the first African American to be elected to judgeships at three different levels of the court system. Pitcher recounts his early years in Valley Park―a segregated and semi-rural neighborhood―where one of his cousins, a civil rights attorney, served as his role model and inspired him to become both a lawyer and an agent of change. Pitcher depicts what it was like to grow up in the segregated South and how racial discrimination fueled his drive to challenge the norms of the Baton Rouge judiciary later in life.
Pitcher discusses how he forged together Black political organizations, the Black church community, and a group of white attorneys into a campaign coalition that ultimately helped him overcome the racial barriers that prevented Black people from ascending to the judiciary in Baton Rouge. He details the strategy used to win seats on both the Baton Rouge City Court and the 19th Judicial District Court at a time when many said a Black candidate could not win a city- or parish-wide election. He describes many of the challenges he faced as the first and only Black judge in Baton Rouge while highlighting some of the notable cases he tried and sharing his beliefs about judging and the judicial process.
Pitcher’s story of rising from “the bench to the bar to the bench”―from the bench outside the local grocery store that he and his friends frequented as young boys, to the Louisiana bar, to the judicial bench―is informative and inspiring, shedding light on the perseverance and determination required of early African American candidates to overcome the many roadblocks to full participation in the political process related to the judiciary.
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