Columbus Remembers Federal Judge Robert M. Duncan

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A native of Urbana, Ohio, Robert M. Duncan was the first African- American elected to the Franklin County Municipal Court and the Ohio Supreme Court.(Photo: OSU Moritz College of Law)
A native of Urbana, Ohio, Robert M. Duncan was the first African- American elected to the Franklin County Municipal Court and the Ohio Supreme Court.(Photo: OSU Moritz College of Law)

Civic leaders, friends, and acquaintances turned out Friday afternoon to remember former federal district court judge Robert M. Duncan. Judge Duncan died earlier this month at age 85. He served the city and state’s legal community for five decades and is remembered for his 1977 landmark decision ordering the desegregation of Columbus City Schools.

“And I think that what we need to recall and to remember about that is that it took courage to do what he did. In fact, when you make that kind of a decision it’s never going to go well, totally. You know, you’re going to get a lot of flak, You’re going to get people who are going to be very critical of you.” Says Debbie Stokes, who was among the crowd at Friday’s memorial for judge Duncan on the Ohio State University campus.

The Reverend Jennie Crockett of Saint Philip Episcopal Church remembers Judge Duncan as one who was laid back and personal but he also loved his judicial work.

“He loved the law. He loved for things to be right, and he was basically a protector.”

Judge Duncan was the first African American to be appointed a federal district court judge in Ohio.

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