Federal Judge Who Officiated Law Student-to-Be's Wedding Also Sentenced His Dad, Back in the Day

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Donald Brown Jr. was 9 years old when his father was sent to prison by a federal judge after a conviction in a drug case. It would be more than a decade before the dad saw his son outside again.

But a blow that could have pushed many youngsters off course only served to strengthen the young man’s resolve. He credits his mother with helping him steer a course toward college, the Air Force and marriage to his childhood sweetheart earlier this year, the News-Democrat reports.

He plans to attend law school after he graduates from Southwestern Illinois College with a political science degree in the fall. Meanwhile, a notice about an internship program at the U.S. District Courthouse in East St. Louis caught his eye. Brown was too young to participate, but he started attending proceedings at the courthouse on his own.

Many were in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge William Stiehl, who performed the marriage ceremony for Brown and his sweetheart on March 23. Unbeknownst to both the judge and the young man until recently, when Brown’s dad recognized the judge’s name, was the fact that Stiehl had earlier played a significant role in the family’s life by imposing sentence on the father.

That was when he decided he wanted to become a lawyer, at age 9, the son told the newspaper. “I watched Perry Mason and Matlock. I also read John Grisham’s books and two books by attorney Johnnie Cochran, the lawyer who defended O.J. Simpson. And, my father was in the justice system,” he said.

Today, he has another hero: Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

“He’s my man,” a grinning Brown told the newspaper. “He said what he meant and there was no wavering back and forth. Justice Marshall was a champion for people’s rights.”

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