January 4, 2013

Honorable Judge Vanzetta P. McPherson is a retired U.S. Magistrate Judge from the Middle District of Alabama.

The Honorable Vanzetta Penn McPherson, a retired United States Magistrate Judge for the Middle District of Alabama, will be the keynote speaker at the “Keeping the Dream Alive” program of Bishop State Community College on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013

Held each year in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, the Keeping the Dream Alive program will start at 6:30 p.m. in the Yvonne Kennedy Auditorium of the Baker-Gaines Central Campus at 1365 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. Admission is free. Sign Language interpreting will be provided. For more information, call 405-7135.

King, the most eloquent African-American leader of the 20th century, spearheaded the campaign in 1957 to end segregation. He made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He would have turned 84 years old Jan. 15, 2013, had he not been struck down by an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968.

Judge McPherson retired from the federal bench in October 2006, after 15 years of service. Prior to her appointment, she practiced law in New York City and in Montgomery for 18 years, focusing on family law in the state courts and constitutional litigation in the federal courts. Judge McPherson was sole legal counsel in class actions that resulted in (1) promotional opportunities for African Americans in Montgomery County’s Sheriff Department, and (2) free exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and assembly for officers of the Montgomery Police Department.

During her career at the bar, Judge McPherson was active in the state's bar associations and in civic activities, especially arts endeavors. She is a past president of the Alabama Lawyers Association and the Montgomery Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. She has also served as Chair of the Family Law Section of the Alabama State Bar Association and a Master Bencher in the Hugh Maddox Inn of Courts. During her practice, the Alabama Supreme Court appointed Judge McPherson to its advisory committees on Juvenile Procedure, Judicial Administration, Child Support Enforcement, and Rules of Conduct. She is a member of the New York and Alabama bars, the American Bar Association, and a life member of the National Bar Association. Judge McPherson was also a widely sought speaker at state and national bar conferences.

She has also devoted her energies to civic endeavors, including membership on the boards of the Montgomery Urban League, Group Homes of Montgomery, Montgomery Food Bank, Friends of the Montgomery Library, the Lighthouse Counseling Center, and volunteer counsel to the Montgomery Chapter of the NAACP, an organization of which she is a life member. Devoted to the arts, Judge McPherson previously served on the boards of the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, Carver Creative and Performing Arts Center, Alabama Public Television Foundation Authority, Landmarks Foundation, and the Alabama State Council on the Arts. She is a member of Class I of Leadership Montgomery (previous Chairman of its Steering Committee) and a member of Class XX of Leadership Alabama.

Judge McPherson is especially proud of two achievements. First, for 11 years, she co-owned and operated Roots & Wings, a bookstore and art gallery specializing in literature and art by and about African Americans. That experience provided personal exposure to business and to distinguished authors such as Alex Haley, Alice Walker, John Hope Franklin, and Margaret Walker. Second, she is the curator of the Dexter Parsonage Museum, a significant civil rights site in Montgomery; she conceived and supervised the interior restoration of Dr. King’s beloved Montgomery home when he was pastor of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. At Dexter, Judge McPherson’s home church, she has served as chairman of the Board of Trustees and the Social Action Committee.

Judge McPherson is presently a member of the boards of directors of First Tuskegee Bank, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Montgomery Public Library Foundation. Judge McPherson writes a bi-monthly column for the Montgomery Advertiser, and a quarterly column for the Boulé Journal.

Judge McPherson has been honored with awards from many civic and professional organizations and associations. A native of Montgomery, she graduated from the Alabama State College Laboratory School, and thereafter received her undergraduate degree with honors from Howard University and her masters and law degrees from Columbia University. She is married to Thomas McPherson, Jr., an employment mediator, who formerly served as a district and area director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They have four adult children and five grandchildren.

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