The Making and Measure of a Judge: The Honorable Sammie Chess Jr.

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Judge Joe Webster

Speaker: Judge Joe L. Webster

The Making and Measure of a Judge: Biography of the Honorable Sammie Chess, Jr. is the definitive biography of North Carolina’s first African American Superior Court Judge. It is a vivid historical journey of Chess’s humble beginning on the dirt floor of a tenant dwelling, in the midst of the Great Depression, in rural South Carolina. Chess’s journey continues through the Jim Crow era and the civil rights struggle as a civil rights attorney, and his rise to an outstanding Superior Court judge, Administrative Law judge, mentor and public servant. The book contains many lessons on how one should conduct themselves as lawyers and judges, and more importantly, many lessons on how to live one’s life. When asked how he was able to rise above all he had experienced first-hand of the segregated south and set aside any personally biases he might have, without hesitation, Chess responded: “You treat people the way you want to be treated, not the way you are treated. I didn’t let them set my standards. If a Klan member can bring you to his level, then you are not well rooted.” Chess lived by a moral compass that lead him to dispense equal justice under law for all, irrespective of race or any other status in life. Undoubtedly, Chess reminds all of us of one of the greatest lessons one can learn in life: “With perseverance we can achieve.”
Judge Joe L. Webster is the Magistrate Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina. Judge Webster graduated from Howard University magna cum laude in 1976, and graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1979. In May 2016, Judge Webster graduated from Duke University School of Law with a LL.M. (Master of Judicial Studies). He practiced law from 1979 through 2006, and was appointed as a North Carolina Administrative Law Judge, Office of Administrative Hearings, in 2006, and has served in that position until his appointment. Judge Webster was a member of the N.C. Board of Law Examiners from 1989 through 2002, an Adjunct Professor of Law at Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law from 2004 through 2012 and First Vice President of BarCARES of N.C., Inc, from 2011 through 2012. Judge Webster’s duty station is in Durham, North Carolina. Judge Webster recently published, The Making and Measure of a Judge: Biography of the Honorable Sammie Chesse Jr. (Chapel Hill Press, 2017).

This event is presented by the John Hope Franklin Center, and Duke University’s Center for International and Global Studies. A light lunch will be served. Parking is available in nearby Trent Rd. and Erwin Rd. parking decks. The series provides 1 hour parking vouchers to guests.