WHITE, CHARLES W. (December 26, 1897-August 21, 1970), lawyer and civic servant, was the first AFRICAN AMERICAN common pleas judge in Ohio, appointed January 16, 1955 by Democratic governor Frank J. Lausche to fill an unexpired term, and the first African American appellate judge (1966, chief justice, 1969-70). White was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to Nellie Allen and Dr. Robert S. White, Sr., a medical school graduate who served as an elementary school principal. White attended school in Nashville and Evanston, Illinois. After serving in WORLD WAR I, he received a Bachelor of Arts from Fisk University, a Historically-Black University, in 1921 and graduated from Harvard University Law School in 1924. He came to Cleveland, but after passing the bar in 1925, could find no law firm to hire him. He worked as a social worker and waited tables at the UNION CLUB until beginning practice with Charles R. Chandler, a Fisk classmate. He later went into practice with CLAYBORNE GEORGE and entered politics as leader of the Eighteenth Ward. Mayor HARRY LYMAN DAVIS appointed White assistant city law director (1933-55), and Mayor HAROLD HITZ BURTON named him to the Metropolitan Housing Authority (1940-55, later the CUYAHOGA METROPOLITAN HOUSING AUTHORITY). White was elected to a full term on the Court of Appeals in November 1956 and named chair of the rules committee in October 1957.

White helped found and served as vice-president of FOREST CITY HOSPITAL. He served as president of the Council of Human Relations (1961) and the KARAMU HOUSE board of trustees, as well as on the boards of the YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION (YMCA) and the Welfare Federation. With his wife Elizabeth (died 1947, two years after they divorced), White had one daughter, Lillian A. In 1951 White married Stella Godfrey (see BIGHAM, STELLA GODFREY WHITE). He belonged to ST. ANDREW'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, and, after 1965, TRINITY CATHEDRAL.

Black, white and red text reading Western Reserve Historical Society

Finding aid for the Charles W. White Papers, WRHS.

Finding aid for the Charles W. White Photographs, WRHS.


Cleveland Public Library Logo


View image at Cleveland Public Library.

View image gallery at Cleveland Public Library.

Article Categories