Freeman, First Black Justice, Retires After 27 Years On Illinois Supreme Court

Jun 14, 2018

Justice Charles E. Freeman has retired after more than 27 years on the Illinois Supreme Court. He is the only African American ever elected to Illinois' top court.
Credit handout / Illinois Supreme Court

Thursday was the last day on the job for the first African American on the Illinois Supreme Court.

Justice Charles E. Freeman retired after more than 27 years on Illinois’ highest court.

He was the longest serving of the current justices by a decade, and was not only the first African American on the court, but the first to serve a three-year term as its chief justice.

Freeman was born in 1933 in Virginia, a descendant of slaves freed before the Civil War. He went to law school in Chicago and became a trial judge in 1976.

Justice P. Scott Neville is Freeman's successor. He was temporarily appointed by the other justices and can run for a full term in 2020.
Credit handout / Illinois Supreme Court

In that role, he administered the oath of office to Chicago's first and only black mayor, Harold Washington.

Freeman’s successor is Appellate Justice P. Scott Neville — the second African American to sit on the high court. The other justices appointed him to fill the vacancy until 2020; if he wants to keep the job after that, he’ll have to run for it.