Cecil F. Poole

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Cecil F. Poole (July 25, 1914 – November 12, 1997) was a prominent African American lawyer and federal judge. Poole was born in Birmingham, Alabama and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

As a young man, Poole was interested in music. For a short time during high school he was a member of a singing group formed by the jazz artist Billy Eckstine. Poole graduated from high school in Washington, D.C. and then earned an A.B. and LL.B. from the University of Michigan in 1935 and 1938. He also received an LL.M from Harvard Law School in 1939.

After Pearl Harbor Poole was drafted into the Army. During the war he was selected to attend Officer Candidate School at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Upon receiving his commission Poole was assigned to Tuskegee Air Force Base, where he served as a military lawyer with the 332nd Fighter Group. Poole was never sent overseas before World War II ended.

After his discharge from the military, Poole embarked on a civilian legal career that spanned more than fifty years and included service as a federal labor relations lawyer and as a prosecutor in San Francisco. Indeed, Poole 's career included several historic appointments to legal positions in the federal government. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Poole the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California, making him the first African American United States Attorney in the continental United States. (Until his appointment, all other African American United States Attorneys had served in the United States Virgin Islands.) In the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson twice nominated Poole to be a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, but those appointments were held up in the U.S. Senate. In 1976, however, President Gerald R. Ford successfully appointed Poole to that court, making him the first African American federal judge in Northern California. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed Poole to be a judge on U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where he served until his death. Judge Poole was also the first African American judge on the Ninth Circuit.

Judge Poole was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, having been initiated into the fraternity via the Epsilon chapter at the University of Michigan. He was also one of the founding members of the fraternity's Gamma Chi Lambda graduate chapter in San Francisco, California.

See also[edit]


  • "Cecil F. Poole, 83, a Legal Leader for Blacks," New York Times (November 16, 1997).
  • "Judge Cecil Poole, Pioneering Black California Jurist," San Francisco Chronicle (November 14, 1997).
  • "Legal pioneer Cecil Poole dies at 83 -- First black federal judge in Northern California," San Francisco Chronicle (November 14, 1997).
  • Haskins, James, Cecil Poole: A Life In The Law (Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society, 2003).

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Oliver Jesse Carter
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Succeeded by
Thelton Henderson
Preceded by
new seat
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Succeeded by
Richard Paez