James Lopez Watson

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James Lopez Watson
Senior Judge of the United States Court of International Trade
In office
February 28, 1991 – September 1, 2001
Judge of the United States Court of International Trade
In office
November 1, 1980 – February 28, 1991
Appointed by Assigned to court by operation of law
Preceded by Court created
Succeeded by Donald C. Pogue
Judge of the United States Customs Court
In office
March 7, 1966 – November 1, 1980
Appointed by Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Jed Johnson
Succeeded by Court abolished
Member of the New York Senate
from the 21st district
In office
Preceded by Julius A. Archibald
Succeeded by Constance Baker Motley
Personal details
Born (1922-05-21)May 21, 1922
New York City, New York
Died September 1, 2001(2001-09-01) (aged 79)
New York City, New York
Alma mater New York University B.A.
Brooklyn Law School LL.B.
Profession Judge

James Lopez Watson (May 21, 1922 – September 1, 2001) was a judge for the United States Court of International Trade.


Watson was born on May 21, 1922, in Harlem, New York City, the son of James S. Watson and his wife Violet. During World War II he fought in Italy with the Army from 1943 to 1945, and was awarded the Purple Heart. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from New York University in 1947 and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1951.[1] He practiced law in New York City.

Watson was a member of the New York State Senate (21st D.) from 1955 to 1963, sitting in the 170th, 171st, 172nd, 173rd and 174th New York State Legislatures. In November 1963, he was elected to the New York City Civil Court.[2]

On January 19, 1966 President Johnson nominated Watson to serve as a Judge for the United States Customs Court, to the seat vacated by Judge Jed Johnson. On March 7, 1966, he was confirmed by the Senate and received his commission on March 7, 1966. On November 1, 1980, he was transferred by operation of law to the newly created United States Court of International Trade. He took senior status on February 28, 1991, and served in that capacity until his death. He was succeeded by Judge Donald C. Pogue. Because judges of that court are periodically assigned to federal courts around the country, Watson became the first African-American judge to head a federal court in the South since Reconstruction.[3]

Watson died on September 1, 2001 from cancer in New York City.[4] In 2003, the courthouse at 1 Federal Plaza in Manhattan was renamed the James L. Watson United States Court of International Trade Building in his honor.[5]


New York State Senate
Preceded by
Julius A. Archibald
New York State Senate
21st District

Succeeded by
Constance Baker Motley