By Donna Purchase 

I received the sad news of the passing of Judge Theodore “Ted” Newman, our neighbor at Waterside Towers in Southwest DC.  The cause was a heart attack, said his companion, Eulla Wilson.  He honored me and my husband Henry by calling us his friends.  

Theodore Newman Jr. was born on July 5, 1934, in Birmingham, and raised in Tuskegee, Alabama, during the horrible days of segregation and Jim Crow laws enacted in the South which denied African Americans the right to vote, hold jobs, get an education or other opportunities. Those who attempted to defy Jim Crow laws often faced arrest, fines, jail sentences, violence, and death. Ted’s father was a minister and his mother a schoolteacher.

Upon finishing high school, he was admitted to Brown University, earning a philosophy degree.  He studied constitutional law and jurisprudence at Harvard Law School. He then began a three-year tour of duty with the U.S. Air Force as a judge advocate stationed in France. Upon his return to civilian life, Newman took a job with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. He entered private practice in 1962 in Washington, DC. 

Judge Newman was a Superior Court judge of the District of Columbia, and later Chief Judge at the DC Court of Appeals, which made him the first African American chief judge of any state-level court in the United States. He retired in 1991.

Newman was very active over the years in several legal organizations. He was a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, past president of the National Center for State Courts and former chairman of the Judicial Council of the National Bar Association.  The National Bar Association bestowed Newman with its highest honor, the C. Francis Stradford Award, for his outstanding service in the struggle for equal justice. 

In 1988, the Judicial Council gave him its highest honor, the William H. Hastie Award. Newman also lectured at Harvard Law School and held adjunct professorships at Howard University Law School and the Georgetown Law Center.  He was a friend and advisor to many in the legal profession.

The passing of Judge Newman is a loss for all of us, because whether you agreed or disagreed with him, nobody can deny that his whole career was dedicated to upholding the rule of law and defending the right of every citizen to participate in the process. Now, with his departure, he will be remembered here in Waterside not only as a neighbor but also as the person that fought to the very end so that each and every one of us could exercise our right to vote.  

A very appropriate final curtain call for Ted Newman.  May he rest in peace.

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