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Franklin D. Cleckley


Justice Franklin Dorrah Cleckley, born August 1, 1940, in Huntington, was the first African-American to serve on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. He earned an LL.M. from Harvard (1969), a J.D. from Indiana University (1965), and a B.A. from Anderson College (1962). Cleckley served during the Vietnam War era in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps.

The author of Evidence Handbook for West Virginia Lawyers and West Virginia Criminal Procedure Handbook, Cleckley in 1972 became the first Black person to be appointed a full professor at West Virginia University, whose law faculty he had joined in 1969. Cleckley in 1987 received the W. Robert Ming Advocacy Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for his championship of civil rights. In 1990, he formed the Franklin D. Cleckley Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to assisting former convicts with educational and employment opportunities. In 1994, Cleckley was appointed to an unexpired term on the West Virginia Supreme Court by Governor Caperton. He declined to run for reelection in 1996 and returned to WVU to teach law. Franklin Cleckley retired from teaching in 2013 and died at his Morgantown home on August 14, 2017.

In celebration of Black History Month in 2001, the West Virginia Supreme Court referred to Cleckley’s handbooks on evidence and criminal procedure as ‘‘the bible for West Virginia’s judges and attorneys.’’

Written by Larry Sonis