Pathways to the Bench: U.S. District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson

Pathways to the Bench: U.S. District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson

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The following program was produced by the United States Courts. I think a life without adversity is a life without perhaps failure, but it definitely is a life without success. When I was two years old I caught polio. It left me completely paralyzed. I was paralyzed from neck gone down. Because of that, I think I had this sense of of being different. I think that most people thought that because you had braces on your leg you probably had braces on your brain. The expectation was that you were not supposed to succeed and some people say, “When you were growing up what is the worst form of discrimination you’ve ever felt in your life?” And I said, “It’s because I was disabled.” Not because I was black It was overcoming that type of discrimination Those false assumptions that you had to confront that I think really changed me. It was the adversity that sharpened my work. I grew up in Tuskegee, Alabama. It was a virtually all black community. One of the earliest true changes in my life came in the third grade. I’d fallen behind in reading in school and I had this teacher and to this day. I don’t know what happened, but she put me in the wrong reading group she put me in the advanced reading group. And what happened was I excelled and I not only was in the advance reading group, but I moved to the top of the advanced reading group. The life lesson was it’s quite often the real the real obstacle is yourself; it’s your own assumptions about yourself. You can go through life just coasting or you can really take on the hard things. It’s only the difficult times they really test your mettle. The first time I was confronted with the suggestion that I replace Judge Johnson, this incredibly well-known judge, I turned it down. Even I thought that it was a bit much and I said, “I don’t want to do this.” I said, “You know, it’s such a a lonely life. You know, I’m 33 years old; I still like to go out have fun.” You know, the last thing I wanted to do was be a federal judge. I eventually did agree and literally two days before I was sworn in up here in this courtroom. I was hitchhiking in Florida had just been water rafting. Of course you know once I became a federal judge it was hard to go hitchhiking again. And this is probably the one of the true lessons of life which is always be prepared for the unexpected because you’ll never know when it’ll hit you. My grandfather told me, he said, “You know when you were born we all,” he was very honest. He said, “we all thought that you were gonna be, you know, this kid who was dependent on the family and was sort of prepared to take care of you.” It was a big family affair to take care of this kid who was paralyzed. And at my graduation he said the most remarkable thing to me, he said, “You know, first in your class in high school and got into Yale, you’ve gotten here.” And he said, “You know, I’ve resolved that the thing—the best thing that ever happened to you was your polio.” He was right. It’s not the good things that happen to us that make us strong it’s the bad things that make us strong. That’s the real test is when you’ve confront something that you initially perceive as an adversity. That’s what builds character, that’s your glorious moment.

2 thoughts on “Pathways to the Bench: U.S. District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson

  • Sara Mcgaha Post author

    Best thing to happen to you was you! Not polio

  • Fabian McIntyre Post author

    Judge Thompson, your story is so inspirational that it should be shared with the world! Also, growing up as a kid, my obstical is that I am a slow learner; and that I learn differently from others. But I am still in pursuit of my dream to beva lawyer!

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