The Honorable Henry T. Wingate, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi, who has amassed a number of firsts and significant achievements as a jurist, naval officer, special assistant attorney general, teacher, athlete, and advocate, will deliver the College of Law’s 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Human Rights Keynote Address, entitled, “The 60’s – A Different World, A Different Time: How Would You Have Coped?” The event will be held on Wednesday, January 23rd at 3:30 p.m. in the Levitt Auditorium, Boyd Law Building. A reception will follow in the Main Lobby. The public is invited.
Judge Wingate received his BA degree from Grinnell College in 1969, and his JD from Yale Law School in 1972.
In 1985, Judge Wingate became the first African-American appointed to the federal bench in the State of Mississippi. Judge Wingate was nominated by President Reagan and confirmed by the United States Senate.
While a student at the Yale Law School, Judge Wingate worked part time for the New Haven Legal Service Office. He was among the first law students in the State of Connecticut to be certified to practice before lower state courts as a third-year law student. Also, while at Yale Law School, Judge Wingate was named as one of few recipients of a national, competitive fellowship from the Law Students Civil Rights Research Organization of New York, New York.
From July of 1973 to September of 1976, he was a Lieutenant in the United States Navy and concurrently a criminal trial attorney with the Naval Legal Services Office. For over two years, Judge Wingate was the only African-American attorney in the entire United States Navy.
From October 1, 1976, to January 16, 1980, Wingate was a Special Assistant Attorney General with the Justice Department of the State of Mississippi – first with the Criminal Division (1976-1978), and later with the State and Local Litigation Division/Federal Litigation (1978-1980). He was the first African-American to be employed as an attorney by the Mississippi Justice Department.
From January 16, 1980, to February of 1984, Judge Wingate was an Assistant District Attorney for the Seventh Circuit Court District (Hinds and Yazoo Counties), State of Mississippi. There, he was in charge of prosecuting violent crimes. He was the first African-American to be hired on a full-time and permanent basis by this office.
From February of 1984 to October of 1985, Judge Wingate was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi. Once again, he became the first African-American to be so hired in the Southern District of Mississippi. In that office, he distinguished himself with his trial skills and conceptualized “Operation Pretense,” which, still today, is the most successful undercover operation which investigated and indicted public officials.
In 1985, Wingate became the first African-American appointed to a lifetime position with the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. Since Mississippi became a State, Wingate has been the only African-American federal judge of any kind. In November 2003, Wingate became Chief Judge and presides over a court of eight District Judges; five Magistrate Judges; and three Bankruptcy Judges.
During his distinguished career, Judge Wingate has held a number of academic and teaching positions, including Adjunct Professor at Jackson State University and Adjunct Professor at Mississippi College School of Law. In addition, Judge Wingate has served as a Lecturer at numerous professional programs and each year conducts his highly-regarded “Court Watch Program” for high school students.
A leader, Judge Wingate has served on numerous judicial committees and was selected as President of the District Judges Association for Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
Judge Wingate is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the State Conference NAACP Outstanding Legal Service Award, the Women for Progress Organization Community Service Award, YMCA Pioneers Award, Medgar Wiley Evers Achievement Award, and Key to the City of Gary, Indiana. He also holds an Honorary Doctor of Laws from his alma mater, Grinnell College, as well as one from Tougaloo College. He serves on Grinnell’s Board of Trustees and two Boards at Yale.
An athlete, he is currently a state doubles champion in racquetball, an avid cyclist (100 miles competitor), chess player, jogger, and swimmer on the YMCA Master’s Swim Team.
Over his nearly twenty years on the federal bench, Judge Wingate has earned a reputation as an intelligent, courteous, and fair trial judge.