Pathways to the Bench: U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton


The following program was produced by
the United States courts. I think it’s important not to let either people
define what your future is and who you are, or your background to define who you
are what you can do. The town I grew up in was a great place to be raised, but it
was a tough town. I found myself getting involved in several fights. As a result
appeared in court on several occasions for fighting activity. One day, it was a
Saturday morning, I remember it profoundly. I was in the kitchen fixing
breakfast and my father, who I had heard being told by my mother the things I was
doing and not doing, I guess he thought about the fact that he was out here
working two jobs trying to make ends meet
and here I am causing my my mother all these problems. And he grabbed me and
turned me around and he said let me make something clear to you, that woman back
in that bedroom that’s my wife. I don’t want to ever hear that you’ve
disrespected her or said something out of your mouth that you shouldn’t. And the
way he was holding me, in the way he said it, I realized that he meant it, so I had
to make some hard choices. I started to get my act together else I knew I was
gonna pay a dear price. I had a former football coach and he was my history
teacher. He knew I was not taking advantage of my intelligence so one day
he made me stand up turn around and face my fellow students and read or at least
try to read and it became very clear to them and to me that I did not read very
well. So after class he kept me and he said, Reggie your bright kid,
I know you love football, you’re good football player, but the reality is the
chances that you’re gonna make a living playing football probably aren’t that
great. So you need to start thinking about what you’re going to do in order
to make a living, and it’s probably going to be through academics. And the
embarrassment of being you know shown to not have the ability to read very well
in front of my peers and his words I think started me to think more about the
importance of education. I had gone in to talk to the guidance counselor. I told
him well I’d like to be a medical doctor, and he told me I just don’t think that’s
a potential that you have. You should think about going to a trade school. My
mother, when I told her that, she became very irate
and she said you’re not going to a trade school you’re going to college. That gave
me the appreciation that regardless of what somebody else said – trying to find
who I was and what I could do – that my parents my mother and father were going
to stick behind me, and that inspired me to pursue a college degree. As a local
city judge on the Superior Court, one of the assignments I enjoyed the most was
working with juvenile delinquents because my background at least me at
least gave me some insight as to why they were doing some of the things they
did. When I had a kid who I thought really had the potential to do well, I
would tell him about my background and you would see the light just go off and
they would say you stood where I’m standing at one point? And I say yes. I
think that a lot of young people can achieve far beyond the success that they
may think they have the capacity to achieve. I think to a large degree all of
us are going to be challenged in one way or another, and I think those who survive, or those who are able to deal with those external forces that are brought
to bear in our life and we don’t let those external forces cause us to change
our appreciation of who we are and what we can be.

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