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Benjamin F. Shobe

History Makers

(1920 - 2016)

Benjamin F. Shobe

(1920 – 2016)

Benjamin F. Shobe

Benjamin F. Shobe was the son of educators born in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Shobe was a circuit judge and one of the civil rights attorneys who helped integrate the University of Kentucky. He received a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1946. He had wanted to attend the University of Kentucky or University of Louisville Law schools, but African Americans were not allowed to attend graduate or professional schools in Kentucky at that time.

Shobe became an accomplished trial attorney. Then, in 1949, he, along with Thurgood Marshall (who later became U.S. Supreme Court Justice), James Nabritt, and James Crumlin, represented Lyman T. Johnson and triumphed in the well-known case to admit African American students into graduate and professional schools at the University of Kentucky.

The history of African American judges in the commonwealth began in 1885 with Nathaniel R. Harper, who was the first African American appointed to the bench. It took nearly seven decades later before Shobe was appointed to the 15th Division of the Jefferson Circuit Court where he served until his retirement.

The Louisville Bar Association and the Louis D. Brandeis American Inns of Court developed the Judge Shobe Civility and Professionalism Award recognizing Shobe’s exemplary career.

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