William Henry Hastie - First Black Federal Judge">

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African American Firsts: Law

William Henry Hastie - First Black Federal Judge

During Hastie's tenure as governor of the District of Columbia he helped bring out the black vote for Harry S Truman. After the election, President Truman asked Hastie what he wanted for his work in the presidential campaign. He did not ask a reward for himself, but nevertheless, President Truman nominated Hastie for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals. In October of 1949 he became the first black to sit on the bench of a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had jurisdiction for Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and the Virgin Islands.

He served 21 years on the appellate court, three of them as chief judge. He took the title of Senior Judge when he ended many years of public service on June 2, 1971, at the age of sixty-six.  He was awarded a number of honorary college and university degrees throughout his career, and he served as a trustee to Amherst College and Temple University.

From the book, Notable Black American Men

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