Justice R. Eugene Pincham: A short biography

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R. Eugene Pincham was born in Chicago, Illinois on June 28, 1925. His parents divorced when he was seven months old, and his mother, with his n-month older brother, and him moved to Athens, Limestone County, Alabama, where his mother grew up and where her parents and relatives lived. He attended Trinity School, a grammar and high school founded in Athens in 1866 by an abolitionist organization, the American Missionary Association, to educate the newly emancipated slaves.


When Pincham graduated from Trinity School in 1941, he and several other Trinity graduates went to and obtained employment in Chicago, Illinois. After a year in Chicago, in September 1942, Pincham enrolled in Le Moyne College in Memphis, another American Missionary institution also founded during the Reconstruction post-Civil War era to educate the emancipated Blacks. R. Eugene Pincham was expelled from Le Moyne twice, at the same time, because of, (1) poor academics; and (2) unacceptable conduct. Pincham’s expulsion from Le Moyne was the best thing that could have happened to him. It put him back on track.

Pincham enrolled at Tennessee State University in 1944 in Nashville, Tennessee. He was initiated into Kappa Alpha Psi at Tennessee State and was Pollmarch of Alpha Theta Chapter from May 1945 to his graduation in June 1947. Pincham was president of the Tennessee State University Student Council in 1946-1947, and he was vice-president of his senior class. He graduated with a B.S. Degree in Political Science. He then went on to Northwestern University's School of Law in Chicago in January 1948, where he was the only Black in a class of 80 students. Although he was a full-time student, he had to work as a waiter in the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago on weeknights, and on weekends he shined shoes to survive and to finance his law school education. He received his Juris Doctorate Degree from Northwestern School of Law in January 1951. When he was admitted to the Illinois Bar on June 18, 1951, he had to "bum a ride" to Springfield, Illinois to appear before the Illinois Supreme Court to take the attorney’s oath.


Pincham married his college sweetheart, Alzata Cudalia Henry, on August 31, 1948, and she worked diligently as a Chicago Public School substitute teacher from January 1949 to March 1959 to help support them during his law school enrollment, and thereafter until 1959 as he attempted to build a law practice. During this time Alzata birthed their three children: Robert on April 7, 1951, who is a Juris Doctorate graduate from Northwestern School of Law; Andrea on August 9, 1953, who is a medical doctor from the University of Illinois .lVledical School; and James on March 21, 1959, who is also a Juris Doctorate graduate from Northwestern School of Law. Throughout their 53 years of marriage Alzata has been a loyal, unselfish, dedicated, supporting and loving wife and mother, and she, indeed, has been the wind beneath Pincham's wings.

Law practice

Pincham began his practice of law with Attorney Joseph E. Clayton, Jr. as a trial and appeals attorney, in criminal and civil litigation, in the state and federal courts, in the summer of 1951. In 1954, he became a partner in the law firm of Evans, Pincham, Fowlkes & Cooper. He was admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1965 and continued with the firm until 1976, when he moved from standing in front of the bench as a lawyer to a seat on the bench as Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. He was assigned to the Criminal Division until June 1984, when he was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court as Justice of the Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, Chicago, to which judgeship he was later elected in November 1986.

As a federal and state, criminal and civil, trial and appellate attorney, Pincham tried thousands of cases and successfully appealed over two hundred cases. As a Cook County, Illinois Circuit Court Judge assigned to the Criminal Division, he presided over hundreds of cases. As an Appellate Court Justice, Pincham authored hundreds of majority and dissenting opInIOns.

Running for office

Because the Illinois Judicial Canon of Ethics prohibited a sitting judge from seeking a non-judicial elective office, Pincham resigned from the Appellate Court in 1990 to seek the Democratic Party nomination for President of the Cook County, Illinois Board of Commissioners in the March 1990 primary election. Traditionally, the Chairman of fbe Finance Committee of the Cook County Board was the Democratic Party nominee; however, at that time, because the Chairman was Black, he was denied the nomination. Pincham gave up his judicial robe to further the political involvement of his community and to respond to this insult to the Black Chicago community by the Democratic Party. Although he lost that election, he continued to be involved In many efforts to advance the political welfare of Chicago's citizens.


Pincham has taught trial and appellate advocacy and techniques at some of America’s most prestigious law schools and universities, such as Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Notre Dame, Chicago, Northwestern, Loyola, DePaul, John Marshall, University of Hawaii, and others.


Now semi-retired, he continues to teach and lecture in trial and appellate advocacy and techniques and represents clients on a select basis. He has been awarded numerous professional and community sefVlce awards from universities, law associations and civic organizations. He is a lifetime member of the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, and he is a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Pincham firmly believes that the true purpose of life is to use one’s life to make better the lives of others, and he has tried to use his life for that purpose.