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Feb. 15, 2011
Justice McGee Brown Featured Speaker at Black History Event

The Supreme Court of Ohio today marked Black History Month with a lunchtime event featuring Ohio’s first female African-American Justice.

Justice Yvette McGee Brown spoke of her background, personal philosophy and heroes to an audience of more than 50 in the Ohio Judicial Center. Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger provided introductory remarks.

“I would encourage all of you to think about what’s the next thing that you want to do because we all create history every day of our lives. It’s not the big names. It’s the individuals,” Justice McGee Brown said, who have the most direct impact on another’s life.

She credits her maternal grandmother with influencing her decision to attend law school and for much of her success, “My grandmother gave me the ability to look at the future and to look at the possibilities,” Justice McGee Brown said. She said her grandmother taught her “if I was willing to roll up my sleeves and work while others slept that there was nothing that I couldn’t be and I thank God for her breathing that hope in my life.”

Former Justice Robert M. Duncan is another great influence, Justice McGee Brown said, noting he took time 33 years ago from his duties on the federal bench to explain his Columbus schools desegregation decision. She was a senior in high school at the time.

“For over an hour I challenged a federal court judge … And he was so patient. And he was so kind. And he answered every question.” Because of her experience with then-Judge Duncan she happily speaks to school groups and challenged audience members to “pay forward to young people whose circumstances don’t provide a clear path.”

“All of us have the ability to instill hope and to inspire. I hope that you will do that every day,” she said.

She also encouraged audience members who want change in their own lives to “go do it. Don’t wait for tomorrow. If there’s something you want to do and you need new skills, go get the skills. If there’s some journey you want to take but you’re a little afraid, jump off.”

Of her recent campaign for lieutenant governor with then-Governor Ted Strickland, who appointed her to the Supreme Court, Justice McGee Brown said, “I am so glad I said ‘yes’ to the experience.”

“It was probably the hardest year of my life but probably the best year of my life,” she said, noting time spent with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton as highlights.

The audience included Supreme Court Justices and staff. Members of the John Mercer Langston Bar Association also attended. The group, named for the first African-American elected to public office in the United States, represents the Columbus affiliate of the National Bar Association. It is the oldest and largest national association of African-American lawyers and judges.

The event also featured Tarela Osuobeni, 2011 Senior Division winner of the City of Columbus Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Oratorical Contest. Osuobeni, a senior at Westerville Central High School, recited her winning speech, “What do I Stand For?”

Contact: Chris Davey or Regina Koehler at 614.387.9250.