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Justice Willie Thompson honored at National Bar Association conference

Judge Cenceria Edwards elected as incoming president of the NBA’s Judicial Council

July 23, 2019 Rob Abruzzese

The National Bar Association is having its 94th Annual Conference in Manhattan this week and as part of that, it held a Judicial Memorial Service at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem on Sunday, July 21.

The event was a tribute to judges of color who passed away over the last year including Brooklyn’s Hon. William Thompson.

Judge William “Willie” Thompson, a decorated World War II veteran, died in December after a legendary career that saw him serve as Brooklyn’s first black state senator, administrative judge and presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department.

Hon. William Thompson, known to his friends as Willie, was honored on Sunday at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.
Eagle file photo by Mario Belluomo

Justice Thompson was also well known as a mentor to other black judges and attorneys including Justice Sylvia Ash and Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix.

“Every judge of color that sat in Civil, Supreme or the Appellate Division came in contact in one way or another with Willie,” said Justice Ash, who said that she was encouraged to run for Supreme Court by Justice Thompson. “He felt like it was his obligation to mentor us because there were so very few mentors at the time.”

“He’s had his hand in the ascension of so many people’s careers in big and small ways,” Justice Hinds-Radix said. “He was such an important figure that if he pulled you aside or offered you advice, you always paid attention to his message. And if he didn’t help you directly, many of the things he did helped a lot of attorneys of color indirectly because he led by example.”

Hon. Cenceria Edwards, Brooklyn Civil Court Judge, was elected on Sunday as the incoming president of the National Bar Association Judicial Council.

There were over 100 judges of color from 27 states in attendance. After the ceremony, they marched through Harlem in their robes from the church to the Schomburg Center for a luncheon.

During the luncheon, an election was held and Brooklyn’s own Civil Court judge Hon. Cenceria Edwards was elected as incoming president of the National Bar Association Judicial Council.

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The Judicial Council of the National Bar Association was created in 1971 by Edward Bell, then president of the National Bar Association, and is the largest association of black judges in the world.

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