First African-American judge in 7th Circuit Court of Appeals retiring

CHICAGO — The first African-American to sit on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago is retiring from the bench next month.

Ann Claire Williams, 68, was appointed to the appellate court in 1999 by President Bill Clinton. She was appointed to the United States District Court by Ronald Reagan in 1985.

Williams was recently honored by several prominent judges from Chicago and around the country, who spoke at a recent event honoring her career. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge LaShonda Hunt called her a “trailblazer” who cleared the way for other minorities aspiring to legal careers, The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reported.




Williams grew up in Detroit and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Wayne State University, and Master of Arts in counseling from the University of Michigan. She taught elementary school in Detroit before graduating from Notre Dame Law School in 1975.

After law school, Williams became of the first of two African-American law clerks in the 7th Circuit, when she clerked for Judge Robert Sprecher. She then spent nine years as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, later serving as supervisor and deputy chief of the criminal receiving and appellate division.

Williams also taught law as an adjunct professor and lecturer at Northwestern University and John Marshall Law School.




Her awards are numerable. Williams has received the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award by the American Bar Association, Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award and the Chicago Lawyer Person of the Year award, to name a few. The Chicago Sun Times and Crain’s both named her one of Chicago’s Most Influential and Powerful Women.

Williams was inducted into the Cook County Bar Association’s Hall of Fame in 2007. R.

— With Associated Press Reports

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