George N. Leighton

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George N. Leighton
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
In office
February 27, 1986 – December 1, 1987
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
In office
February 4, 1976 – February 27, 1986
Appointed by Gerald Ford
Preceded by Abraham L. Marovitz
Succeeded by James Henry Alesia
Personal details
Born George Neves Leitão
(1912-10-22) October 22, 1912 (age 104)
New Bedford, Massachusetts, U.S.
Alma mater Howard University
Harvard Law School
Occupation Retired judge; World War II veteran military officer

George N. Leighton (né George Neves Leitão; born October 22, 1912) is a retired American jurist.

Early life and marriage[edit]

George Neves Leitão was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts to Ana Silva Garcia and António Neves Leitão, both originally immigrants from Brava, Cape Verde.[1] Leitão learned Cape Verdean Creole and English as a child. His surname was anglicised as "Leighton" by a teacher who claimed she could not pronounce his last name "Leitão". His parents agreed.[2] He grew up in New Bedford and Cape Cod, leaving high school before graduation in order to work on oil tankers. He continued his studies independently and through night school classes until he could enter Howard University.[3]

Leighton married Virginia Berry Quivers; the couple had two daughters, Virginia Anne and Barbara Elaine. After her death, he did not remarry. As of 2015, Leighton has five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.[4][5]

He was a tournament chess player.[6] Leighton turned 104 in October 2016.[7][8]


Leighton graduated in 1940 from Howard University, a historically black college, with an B.A.. He started law school but was interrupted by the United States' entry into World War II. After the war he returned to Harvard Law School and earning an LL.B. in 1946.[3] From 1942-1945, during World War II, Leighton had served in the United States army, achieving the rank of Captain.

Leighton moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he was in private practice from 1946–64, aside from the period during which he served as Assistant State Attorney General of Illinois (1949–51). He served as a Master in Chancery, Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois from 1960–64.[citation needed]

Leighton was elected as a judge with the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, serving from 1964–69. He was appointed as a judge with the First District Appellate Court of Illinois, serving from 1969-76. Leighton was the first African American to hold this position in the State of Illinois.[3][9]

In 1975 President Gerald Ford nominated Leighton to a seat on the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois. This was a seat being vacated by Abraham L. Marovitz. Leighton was confirmed on February 2, 1976, and received commission on February 4, 1976. He served until November 30, 1987. After his retirement from federal service, he returned to the practice of law with the firm of Earl L. Neal & Associates.[9]

Leighton became a Life Member in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1964. He had served the Chicago branch of the NAACP for several years as president and general counsel.

Legacy and honors[edit]

  • In 2005 the United States Postal Service located at 695 Pleasant Street in his hometown of New Bedford, Massachusetts, was renamed as the "Honorable Judge George N. Leighton Post Office Building" in his honor.
  • In 2012, the Cook County Criminal Courthouse in Chicago was renamed in his honor as "The Hon. George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building."



  1. ^ "Juiz de origem cabo-verdiana homenageado nos EUA" (in Portuguese). A Semana online. January 11, 2009. 
  2. ^ "George Leighton became US District Court Judge", African-American Registry
  3. ^ a b c "Juiz de origem cabo-verdiana homenageado nos EUA", A Semana, 11 Janeiro 2009; accessed 14 January 2017 (Portuguese)
  4. ^ [1], Jonathan Pollard blog
  5. ^ [2], Chicago Lawyer Magazine, 01 July 2010
  6. ^ [3], Chicago Chess blog
  7. ^ Manson, Patricia (2012-10-22). "Leighton reaches the century mark". Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  8. ^ Lauraann Wood (2016-04-27). "State high court commission honors Bauer". Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. Retrieved 2016-07-12. 
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ Address to NAACP, November, 1964

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Abraham Lincoln Marovitz
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Succeeded by
James Henry Alesia