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Wade H. McCree, Jr.

In office
1977 – 1981
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Robert Bork
Succeeded by Rex E. Lee

In office
September 7, 1966 – 1977
President Lyndon Johnson

Judge U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan
In office
September 29, 1961 – 1966
Nominated by John F. Kennedy

Born July 3, 1920
Des Moines, Iowa
Died August 30, 1987
Detroit, Michigan
Spouse(s) Dores McCree
Alma mater Fisk, A.B.
Harvard, J.D.
Religion Unitarian Universalist

Wade Hampton McCree, Jr. (July 3, 1920 – August 30, 1987) was an American attorney, judge, public official and law professor. He was the first African American appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the second African American Solicitor General in the history of the United States. He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan Law School after leaving government service in 1981, and taught there until the time of his death.

McCree was born in Des Moines, Iowa to Wade Hampton McCree Sr., a graduate of Fisk University who had worked worked his way though college as a butler and who became the first African-American pharmacist and pharmacy owner in Iowa. McCree senior was later employed as first African-American narcotics inspector for the Food and Drug Administration.[1][2] McCree grew up mainly in Boston, and attended the prestigious Boston Latin School.[1] Like his father, McCree worked his way through Fisk University.[2] He was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa society and graduated summa cum laude in 1941. After serving a four-year stint as a Captain in the United States Army during World War II, McCree entered Harvard Law School and graduated 12th in his class in 1948.[2]

McCree and his wife, Dores, a graduate of Simmons College, then moved to her hometown of Detroit, Michigan where they raised three children. McCree practiced law at the legendary black law firm of Bledsoe & Taylor from 1948 to 1952. He began his long career in public service in 1953 when was appointed to the Workman's Compensation Commission by Michigan Governor G. Mennen Williams. Two years later McCree became the first African-American to be appointed to the Circuit Court for Wayne County, Michigan, and served on that court from 1954 to 1961.[2]

President John F. Kennedy nominated McCree to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on September 18, 1961, another first for an African-American.[2] His nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate 11 days later, and he received his commission on September 29, 1961. On August 16, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated McCree to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. He was confirmed by the Senate on September 7, 1966 and received his commission the same day.

While sitting on the federal bench, McCree was known to have expressed his views on race and justice. When a lawyer argued that McCree could not impartially decide a case involving a black and a white litigant McCree replied: "the ultimate of arrogance is achieved when a white person thinks another white person can make a judgment without being influenced by race, and a black person cannot."[1]

When his eldest daughter was refused admission to an all-girls school in Detroit because she was black, McCree founded the interracial Friends School in 1965. He was also a founder of the statewide Higher Education Opportunity Committee, a program which identifies promising middle school students and provides them with college scholarships.[2]

McCree served on the 6th Circuit until 1977, when President Jimmy Carter appointed him United States Solicitor General. As Solicitor General, McCree served as the head appellate lawyer for the U.S. government and represented the administration in cases before the U. S. Supreme Court. He personally argued 25 cases before the Supreme Court, including the Richard Nixon presidential tapes case and the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke affirmative action case.[2] In the Bakke case, McCree argued that race could be one factor in deciding whether an applicant was admitted to medical school. He said at the time that he was "in favor of special admissions programs, but people who can outgrow them should not become dependent on them."[1] Often called the "10th Justice", McCree served as Solicitor General for four years.

McCree resigned his commission as Solicitor General in 1981 when conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan took office. McCree then became the Lewis M. Simes Professor of Law at the University of Michigan, where he taught until his death. During these years he also consulted on various cases and served as Special Master for U.S. Supreme Court cases of original jurisdiction.

McCree died at age 67 of bone cancer and a heart ailment at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.[1] President Jimmy Carter said at his memorial service that McCree was "a true American hero". McCree is interred at Woodlawn Cemetery.

McCree's daughter, Kathleen McCree Lewis, was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1999. However, the Republican controlled U.S. Senate failed to act on Lewis' nomination.


  1. ^ a b c d e Pace, Eric. Wade H. McCree Jr. Dies at 67; Was Judge and Solicitor General, New York Times, Sep 1, 1987
  2. ^ a b c d e f g MacKinnow, Kin Foley Notable American Unitarians, from The Bulletin, Boston Latin School Association




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