Joseph Cornelius Waddy

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Joseph Cornelius Waddy (May 26, 1911 – August 1, 1978) was a United States federal judge.

Early and family life[edit]

Born in Louisa County, Virginia, Waddy moved to Alexandria, Virginia when he was seven years old, in 1928. Ten years later, he won an oratorical contest on the American Negro's constitutional rights, sponsored by the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World. After his family moved across the Potomac River to Washington, D.C., he graduated from Dunbar High School. In 1935 Waddy graduated with honors, receiving a A.B. degree from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. After an additional three years of study, he received a LL.B. from Howard University School of Law, graduating at the top of his class. He married Elizabeth H. Hardy, who bore a son, Joseph C. Waddy, Jr.


After passing the District of Columbia bar exam and admission to that bar, Waddy began private practice with the law firm of Charles Hamilton Houston, known for his tireless civil rights practice. Waddy remained in private practice in Washington, D.C. from 1939 to 1962, except for 1944-46, when he served in the United States Army, rising to the rank of staff sergeant.

After returning from World War II, Waddy was a partner in the law firm of Houston, Waddy, Bryant and Gardner.[1] Among the most important civil rights cases he helped litigate were Steele v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad Co., 323 U.S. 192 (1944) and Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957).

Waddy served on the Citizens Advisory Council to the District of Columbia Commissioners from 1958 to 1962, and as an adjunct professor at the Howard University School of Law from 1966 to 1967.[2]

In 1962, Waddy was appointed to the municipal court for the District of Columbia in the domestic relations branch. He held that Associate Judge position until PresidentLyndon B. Johnson on January 16, 1967 appointed him to a seat vacated by Richmond B. Keech. The United States Senate was confirmed him on March 2, 1967, and he became a Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, receiving his commission on March 4, 1967.[3] Several cases which he handled improved education in local schools (although he once was forced to hold the mayor in contempt of court), liberalizing abortion restrictions, and speeding the city's process for reissuing lost or stolen welfare checks.[4] In addition to his federal judicial duties, beginning in 1971, Waddy served as Commissioner for the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.

Judge Waddy died at Washington Hospital Center on August 1, 1978 of emphysema and a heart disorder.[5]


  1. ^ Char McCargo Bah, Christa Watters, Audrey P. Davis, Gwendolyn Brown-Henderson and James E. Henson, Sr., African Americans of Alexandria, Virginia: Beacons of Light in the Twentieth Century (Charleston, The History Press 2013), p. 86
  2. ^
  3. ^ Joseph Cornelius Waddy at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  4. ^ The Afro-American (Baltimore, August 12, 1978), p. 1 available at,520487
  5. ^ The Afro-American (Baltimore, August 12, 1978), p. 1 available at,520487
Legal offices
Preceded by
Richmond Bowling Keech
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Succeeded by
John Garrett Penn