18 May 2007
White to retire from Missouri's high court
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Judge Ronnie L. White announced this afternoon that he would retire from the Supreme Court of Missouri effective July 6, 2007, after 13 years in judicial service. He was appointed to the Court in October 1995 and served as chief justice from July 2003 through June 2005. He previously served as a judge on the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District.
"Judge White has been a wonderful colleague with a distinguished record of service in his 13 years in the judiciary," Missouri Chief Justice Michael A. Wolff said. "I sincerely hope his legacy does justice to all his work as a lawyer and a jurist and does not focus solely on the groundbreaking status he achieved through mere happenstance. His appointment as a judge finally broke an important color barrier, as he became the first black judge on the Supreme Court and ultimately the state's first black chief justice. Although he never wanted to be 'the first,' he embraced the opportunities it gave him to encourage the bar and the judiciary to find ways to increase diversity throughout all levels of the legal community so that someday, diversity does not require effort but rather takes place as a matter of course in a profession where all facets of society are represented.
"His status as 'the first' aside, Judge White has served this state with honor and dignity and a quiet diligence to promoting equal access to justice," Wolff said. "He never sought the spotlight, and he never liked it shining on him, so I am happy for him and his family that he can return to private life, away from the spotlight. We all will miss him, and we wish him and his family all the best."
A 1983 graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School, White began his legal career as an intern in the Jackson County, Mo., prosecutor's office and then as a legal assistant in the U.S. Department of Defense Mapping Agency. He later worked as a public defender in the city of St. Louis and as a special public defender in St. Louis County. In addition, White was elected to serve three terms in the Missouri House of Representatives.
The only portion of his professional career he has spent not in public service was as a principal with the St. Louis law firm of Cahill, White and Hemphill and as an adjunct professor of trial advocacy for Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. White has announced no specific plans after his retirement from the bench but has indicated an interest in continuing to work in the legal field.
"I have devoted most of my life to public service, first in my home community of St. Louis, then in the state legislature and finally as a judge in Missouri's judiciary," White said. "My family and I are looking forward to my return to life as a private citizen."
Contact: Beth S. Riggert, Communications Counsel
Supreme Court of Missouri
Phone: (573) 751-3676
Cell: (573) 619-2849