104-Year-Old World War II Veteran And Retired Judge Has Some Good Advice For Long Life

The first African-American lawyer selected to a federal seat as a judge has words of advice given him by his father if reaching 100 years of age is a goal: don’t smoke and know what is going on around you.

World War II vet George Leighton, known as ‘The Judge,’ recently celebrated his 104th birthday at the Brockton VA Medical Centre.

He was raised in humble surroundings by immigrants from the island of Brava, one of a number of islands comprising Cape Verde. In his youth, he worked on a cranberry bog.

Before and after four years in the Army with the 93rd Infantry Division in the Pacific, he graduated from Harvard Law School.

James Schorle, an assistant nurse manager on Leighton’s floor, outlined Leighton’s life to celebrants including his work as an attorney traveling to Mississippi to victoriously appeal a guilty verdict against an African-American who was accused in the unreasonable killing of a white female.

In another case told by Robert Whitfield, Leighton’s son-in-law, Leighton as a young lawyer went to Alabama to contest a state constitutional amendment that prevented black citizens from voting. He took the case to the Supreme Court and won.

Leighton has been an avid chess player since adolescence and is considered by the staff at the nursing home as a master at the game. He plays regularly with other veterans and staff members.

He still plays, said recreational therapist Susan Reilly. He’s still very smart on all the movements.

The New Bedford post office is named after him, as is the courthouse for Clark County, Illinois since 2002.

The country now is far different from 1946 when Leighton went to Chicago, eventually becoming the president of the city’s NAACP, but could not patronize many restaurants and hotels because of racism and segregation, The Enterprise reported.

In his father-in-law’s typical fashion, he ignored the ridiculousness and stayed true to his principles, Schorle said.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE