SALISBURY, MD---Chief Judge Robert Bell broke boundaries when he became the first African American to hold the highest position in Maryland’s judiciary system in 1996.
The Maryland Court of Appeals chief judge speaks on “Justice and Social Change” 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 25, in the Great Hall of Holloway Hall as part of the Salisbury University Center for Conflict Resolution’s “One Person Can Make a Difference” lecture series.
Born July 6, 1943, in Rocky Mount, NC, Bell was at the forefront of the civil rights movement. His parents migrated to Baltimore, where he received his early education. While a senior at Dunbar High School in 1960, he was one of a dozen high school students recruited by Morgan State College students to participate in a sit-in. The students were refused service at Hoopers Restaurant and subsequently arrested and convicted for trespassing. Bell led an appeal of the verdict in the landmark civil rights case Bell v. Maryland. The case was eventually argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and ended de facto racial segregation in Maryland.
Bell earned his A.B. degree from Morgan State College in 1966. In 1969, he earned his law degree from Harvard University and was the first student from Morgan to attend Harvard's prestigious law school.
From 1969 until 1975, he worked at the Baltimore law firm Piper and Marbury, where he was the first African American hired. In 1975, he became a judge on the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City in his first judgeship. In 1980, Bell served as a judge for the Circuit Court for Baltimore where he remained until 1984. He was appointed to the Court of Special Appeals in Maryland and served in that post from 1984 until 1991.
From 1991 until 1996, Bell served on the Court of Appeals of Maryland. When he was appointed by Governor Parris Glendening as chief judge of the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, in 1996, he became the only active judge in Maryland to have served at least four years on all four levels of the state’s judiciary. The University System of Maryland Board of Regents recently honored Bell with its prestigious Frederick Douglass Award. Sponsored by the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, SU Center for Conflict Resolution, SU Foundation Inc. Office of Cultural Affairs and Maryland Judiciary Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office, Bell’s talk is free and the public is invited. For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu. "