Eugene Pincham: 'Giant' of Chicago Legal Community Dies

Chicago-area legal legend R. Eugene Pincham, who served as a state appellate judge but proved too confrontational for political office, died Thursday after a long illness. He was 82.

Chief Cook County Judge Timothy Evans confirmed the news for the Chicago Tribune, saying, “He was one of the best and brightest trial lawyers that I have ever known. He’s a remarkable member of the legal community, a giant, and he will be sorely missed.”

Evans reminisced that he would go to Chicago’s court building while he was in law school in the ’60s so he could watch Pincham try cases.

“He sought to make certain that the trier of fact, judge or jury, got a glimpse of the humanity of the person he was representing,” Evans is quoted saying. “They could envision exactly what was happening to another human being. He reminded people that the defendant was to be presumed innocent, and he was very successful with it.”

The Tribune notes that Pincham, during his career, was “a champion of black defendants fighting entrenched racism” in the police force and judicial system.

“His closing arguments would pack courtrooms with other lawyers eager to see him at work,” the paper reports. Pincham lost bids for president of the Cook County Board, county commissioner and mayor.

In one of his more polarizing comments, the Tribune notes that then-Judge Pincham, in a speech supporting mayoral candidate Harold Washington, said, “Any man south of Madison Street who casts a vote in the Feb. 24 election who doesn’t cast a vote for Harold Washington ought to be hung.” He later reportedly said he meant that “every black Chicagoan ought to vote in the election. Anybody who doesn’t vote ought to be hung.”

The comment landed him in hot water with the state judicial commission in a drawn-out proceeding that was eventually dismissed.

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