Joe Billy McDade
United States District Court for the
Central District of Illinois
Born: Belleville, Texas-December 2, 1937.
Education: Bradley University, Peoria Illinois (B.S. 1959; M.S. 1960) and University of Michigan Law School (J.D. 1963).
McDade was the first African-American judge appointed to the United
States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. He was
appointed on December 13, 1991 by President Bush. He served as Chief
Judge of that court from 1998 to 2004.
When Joe Billy
McDade was a year old, his mother passed away leaving him and his
sister in the care of his father, who worked as a janitor and a Baptist
Minister. Nine years later, Mr. McDade died leaving his children in the
custody of his mother. Since her income as a domestic was not
sufficient to support the family, Judge McDade picked cotton and
shelled garlic to supplement his grandmother's earnings.
Although he was
orphaned at the age of ten, many people in his neighborhood, church,
and school took an active interest in McDade. His high school
principal, for instance, was a constant source of inspiration for Judge
McDade. He "constantly preached that through hard work and discipline,
we [African-Americans] could compete in the white world." Additionally,
many people in his community convinced Judge McDade that his social and
financial circumstances were not impenetrable obstacles to success.
Judge McDade can remember considering a legal career at an early age:
The one incident
I can point to happened when I was ten or eleven years old. A white
broom salesman came to the house and my grandmother could not bring
herself to refuse his solicitations even though we needed the money for
the payment of rent. I recall crying and urging her to refuse the
purchase. For the first time, I recall saying, " when I grow up, I am
going to be a lawyer so that no one has to buy a broom if they don't
law school in 1963, Judge McDade began his professional career as an
attorney with the AntiTrust Division of the United States Department of
Justice in Chicago. In 1965, he left Chicago to become the Executive
Trainer with the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Peoria.
That same year, McDade became the first African-American Executive
Director of the Greater Peoria Legal Aide Society. In 1968, Judge
McDade was a founding partner of the first racially mixed law firm in
Peoria, Hafele & McDade, where he worked until he opened his own
firm, Joe Billy McDade P.C., in 1977.
In 1982, upon
being appointed an Associate Circuit Judge for the Tenth Judicial
Circuit for the counties of Peoria, Tazewell, Marshall, Stark, and
Putnam, Judge McDade became the first African-American to be appointed
to the state court in that circuit. He held that position until 1988,
when he was elected as an Associate Circuit Judge for the Tenth
Judicial Circuit. Judge McDade was also the first African-American to
be elected to that office.
finds his work "ennobling which is consistent with the ideals and
values underlying the work that judges do." He enjoys every facet of
his position, especially the unique privilege bestowed on him by the
people to administer justice. He believes that twenty years of general
practice, involvement in civic affairs and community service, and
respect for hard work and practical common sense prepared him for the
McDade encourages those who possess strong analytical, writing, and
verbal skills to consider pursuing a career in law. These
qualifications alone, however, will not suffice. Judge McDade notes
that "there must also be an inherent sense of fairness, a basic
honesty, and a desire to do justice."
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