The Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission created an annual award to be given to an attorney whose contributions to the profession and society have been exemplary. The first recipient, for whom the award has been named, is a model worth emulation.
On Wednesday afternoon, July 22, 2009, the Supreme Court courtroom in the Bilandic building in downtown Chicago was filled to capacity with admirers of the "96 years young" Judge George N. Leighton. One of his chief admirers, Jerold Solovy, Chair of the Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission, gave an enthusiastic introduction and read letters of praise from President Obama and Governor Quinn.
This standing room only audience was then captivated by the acceptance speech delivered by the Judge. Talking about highlights of his career, Judge Leighton gave us a first-hand glimpse at the determination, still evident in him, that drove him to overcome the various obstacles and setbacks he met as a young black attorney working for equality and fairness.
Chief Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald, a former student of Judge Leighton's, rounded out the ceremony by claiming Judge Leighton for himself saying, "I'm willing to share, but he's MY hero."