A Story of Rick Teitelman and Ronnie White
as told by Jim Stone Goodman

Judge Rick Teitelman remembers

When Princeton wasn’t admitting Jews
When his father who finished second in his class
Got a call we don’t want your kind in our College --

His father did go to College
He worked three jobs because his father had died
He worked Paperman’s Fish Market
He sold insurance
He did people’s taxes.

Judge Rick remembers
His father made his niche
Serving the Yiddish speaking immigrants
And children of immigrants in Philadelphia.

When Penn wasn’t that inviting either
When his father who wanted to be a Chemist
He could not have found work at DuPont in their Philadelphia.

Judge Rick remembers when Billy English
And his gang of tough Catholic kids from St. Francis De Sales
Came after him.

He remembers that his father passed on chemistry and graduated law school
In 1932
Nobody was working then
He remembers how his father found his way
He remembers how the older generations do not forget so easily
The way it was
But he wonders how much the present generation knows
And he hopes in the future it will be a matter of
Memory              Entirely.

Judge Rick remembers that not so long ago
Louis Brandeis
Had three weeks of hearings over his nomination
That the American Bar Association opposed his appointment
And seven past Presidents of the Bar Association
Wrote letters to Congress:     Do not appoint him to the Court.

Judge Rick remembers the Missouri judge who leaned over to him
And with a chuckle said,
“so you’re the anti-Christ”
because that is what was being preached from the pulpits of Missouri
about Judge Rick.

Judge Rick remembers when he was told he would never go to College
He was legally blind
But he was good at Math
So he went to a magnet public school in Philadelphia.

He remembers their apartment in West Philly
In an African American neighborhood
Where his father had a deal paying $60 a month
To be super for three apartment buildings --

My elementary school had bars on the windows,
Judge Rick remembers,
I always got along well with people.

I was taught: you must study
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, work day and night,
if you don’t do that, you won’t survive.

We persevere.

Judge Rick remembers he came out here for law school
Horace Greeley sent me, I had no idea where St. Louis was.

I had no job out of law school, nobody would hire me.
They wouldn’t give me a reader for the Bar Exam,
He remembers.

There was no public transportation around here,
How was I to get around?
I did volunteer work
Farm workers
Hospital workers
I quit the law review to do that stuff
I found it enriching --
I lived in a 1 room apartment
One part my office, the other my living quarters.

Next step: Dave Lander at Legal Services was desperate for someone
With some experience.
I had two years experience,
I had 200 criminal defenses –
Still he didn’t know if I was a radical or what --
He ran out after me to the elevator

“You know you’re on probation for 90 days.”
But David was always very supportive of me,
Judge Rick remembers.

I was staff attorney for one year
Managing attorney second year
I became a director of legal services for eastern Missouri
When I was 32 years old.

Judge Rick remembers he has a stack of cookies on his desk,
You want some cookies? Have you had any yet?

Wonderful work, wonderful work, judge Rick remembers
about his time at Legal Services --
I’ll tell you why
You are working for poor people
You say: I work for you
I do what you tell me to do
They never heard that before
It’s so empowering –

I’ll give you options
Things you might want to think about –

But I work for you.

It’s my life.
I’m a man of the people
I built a career out of it.

I was director from 1980 to 1998 –

In my work, Judge Rick remembers,
People talk about out of the box
I could never find the box –
What box. . .

My efficacy was to link poor clients to the community who could
Support them
Where’s the money?
Where does the support come from --
I had to build that support.

There was a lot of animosity toward Legal Services,
Judge Rick remembers,
We had to build contacts that my clients could not build
We’ve had great lawyers.

There was no bridge no fund raising
Judge Rick remembers
We had to build it up.

There were two governors in the United States
Who    Vetoed Legal Aid grants
Governor Hearns      Democrat      In Missouri
First consecutive two term governor
[He ended up a Legal Services director in southeast Missouri
People change, Judge Rick remembers]

And the other Governor was Reagan in California.

A governor’s veto could be reversed
Judge Rick remembers
And the person who overruled the veto
Was the director of HEW under Nixon --
Donald Rumsfeld.

The Building    4232 Forest Park
They said we couldn’t raise money for that
We raised a million dollars.

I was always trying to get people to respect Legal Aid attorneys
It makes a difference in Court.

Building Legal Services, Judge Rick remembers,
It’s the best thing I ever did in my life.
Best attorneys
Best staff
To help poor people get justice
That’s the highest calling

Justice Justice shalt thou pursue,
Remembers Judge Rick quoting the holy Torah.

When I was appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court
They didn’t know people of color
Hadn’t served with Jews --

Well, it’s America
We have the ability to overcome

From my father’s day, Judge Rick remembers,
There is a way in America.

I served with Ronnie White,
He’s the sweetest guy
You can’t help but love him,
When I would come into the Court,
That soft voice --
How you doin’ Rick? 

I like to talk to groups and say –
If I can do it, you can do it.
There’s nothing special about me.

It’s a good life
But you gotta be vigilant --

Every generation has to fight for its freedoms.

I’ve talked too much,

Judge Rick remembers,

Did you have any cookies yet?


Judge Ronnie White Remembers

It’s a huge honor to be recognized on any stage
With Judge Rick
Any time
Judge Rick is one of the outstanding jurists the State has ever seen
I don’t know if the contemporary writers understand his
Contributions --
But the future will.

When I started out
I thought I had something to offer
Public service
I was the first African American city counselor chief lawyer city of St. Louis
First African American judge of Missouri Supreme Court.

You have to understand
There are a lot of accomplishments
and a lot of failures too --
I don’t want to be remembered as the first,

I want to be remembered by
Who I brought along
Behind me.

It was ground breaking for me
To be   On the Supreme      Court --

A person of color on the Missouri Supreme Court --
I could speak about a lot of things.

Judge White recalls who his mentors were,

My hero
My mentor
The person I looked up to –
Judge Thurgood Marshall.

But when I came up
Society had changed
I was still of the Marshall school.

I would look at cases    to make sure
Justice was applied blindly
I was very careful in reading transcripts of
Lower courts.

My life experiences growing up in   North St. Louis
As a child I was bussed to school       To south St. Louis,

I watched the men in my community
Get up
Go to work
And they never had anything.

I became a lawyer to make it better
For everyone else.

When I became a lawyer in 1984,
Judge White remembers,
The judges had seen African Americans only
As criminals --

One of the Judges asked me --
How did you ever get out of north St. Louis
Without getting arrested?

When I became a judge I wanted to make sure
We had lawyers of diversity
I mean diversity of thought --

I was watching Thurgood Marhsall
As his time on the Court grew
A lot of his dissents became     Majority opinions.

I tried to get it right
I tried to do the right thing by the public.

As the first African American chief justice in Missouri
And the only one,
Judge White remembers --
The Press followed my every move.

I’m going to be the chief justice
And it’s going to be like every other one --
It’s going to be --


My allies were Rick Teitelman and Mike Wolff
They both demonstrated fairness.

When I was in public service
I never thought about public

But it’s nice to acknowledged --

Now I’m out of public service,

It’s a nice clean living
I don’t have to drive 125 miles
To work anymore,

I’ve said everything I’ve wanted to say
About some of the most important
In the last 25 years.

I don’t regret a thing.

I’ve had a chance to say some stuff
To write a dissent
In conceal ‘n carry for example --

At least I’m on record for not supporting it --

You plant the seeds and they
May grow,

I had a chance to be there
Make my minutes count.

The thing I am most proud of?
To get the first African American mayor elected in St. Louis
Freeman Bosley jr. in 1993
To be a part of a group of young African Americans
Enter government
Everybody told us we were going to lose
I came home to take my position in the Bosley administration
We couldn’t believe we won that race --

What do we do now?
We’re going to govern the city.

To think we had a seat at the table in room 200
That’s going to be in my book

Between 1995 and 2007
When I was on that Court
A lot of those issues you could duck
But I felt
It needs to be said.

I wrote an opinion on the death penalty
My dean at the University of Missouri – Kansas City law school said,
“The judge just needed to say
What needed to be said.”

My definition of liberal:
I’m tolerant of you
That’s inclusive
A melting pot
This country.

My wife Sylvia
My son Ronnie
They’re happy to have me back home
They’re happier than I am to be out of public life, I think,

I was in the Press all the time
I don’t think the State of Missouri
Can elect African Americans state wide.

We were working together,
Judge White Remembers
When Judge Rick was at Legal Services
Trying to get people of color on the Court
I think the world of Judge Rick –

He’s my friend.

You know,
Judge White remembers,
All he stories are not being told
It’s a different world here --
What we are telling

We’re not talking much about it in the next
Tell the story – it’s important

I have a lot of story to tell. . .

In the future we will get away from race
In time we will
[It’s the future]

But the former generations --
We remember.

There are some stories
That need to be told --

That’s going to be in my book too.

 When our children go to school together
Work together
They’ll live together.

I didn’t mean to take up all your time
I’ve kind of faded into the sunset --

But I’m here.

james stone Goodman
sunday, may 15, 2011