Spreading the Gospel of the First Amendment

Odell McGhee

Thursday, 16 Apr 2009 at 7:00 pm – Sun Room, Memorial Union

Judge Odell McGhee is with the Polk County District Court and was recently elected president of the statewide Iowa Judges Association. He is a member of the Iowa National Bar Association, the state affiliate of the oldest and largest national association of predominately African American lawyers and judges, for which he served as president for over ten years. He is active in the group’s efforts to make Des Moines "The First Amendment City,” which includes raising funds to build a speaker's platform along the river in downtown Des Moines. Judge McGhee is licensed to practice law in the local, state and federal courts. A graduate of Drake Law School, he was previously with the Polk County Attorney’s Office. The First Amendment Day Celebration Keynote Speaker.
b]Thursday, April 16, 2009

Freedom March
9:00 a.m., Ames City Hall, 515 Clark Ave.
Freedom March, begins at City Hall and ends at steps of Curtiss Hall

Journalism Kids Do Better
10:15 a.m. - 11:45 a.m., Pioneer Room, Memorial Union
High School Seminar with Jack Dvorak, journalism professor, Indiana University

Discover Your Freedom at Iowa State University
11:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m., Pioneer Room, Memorial Union
Lindsay Gilbert, Greenlee School Student Services

Feast on the First Amendment
12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m., Central Campus
Food, music, drama, chalk the campus, soap box debates & exhibits

The Freedom to Know: Freedom of Information and Open Government in the 21st Century
2:30 p.m.-3:55 p.m., Carver 305
Panelists include Clark Kauffman, Perry Beeman, Lee Rood and Tom Barton of the Des Moines Register as well as Lauris Olson of Ames365.com.

Roundtable discussion with the Iowa State Daily
4:10 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Hamilton Hall 172.

Keynote: Spreading the Gospel of the First Amendment
Polk County District Judge, Odell McGhee

7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., Sun Room, Memorial Union
Includes the presentation of the 2009 Champions of the First Amendment Awards

For more information: http://fad.jlmc.iastate.edu/

Judge Odell Gene McGhee was born in Liberty, Mississippi, on July 11, 1952. When he was thirteen years old his parents moved the family to Chicago, Illinois, during the early "rural flight" to larger cities in the early 1960s. After finishing junior high and high school in the Chicago Public School System, he attended the University Of Illinois and transferred to Cornell College, Mount, Vernon, Iowa, where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Secondary Education and Math. After graduating from Cornell College in 1974 he attended the Drake University School of Law and received a Juris Doctorate Degree in 1977. Judge McGhee studied in Europe in his junior year of college at the University of Copenhagen, and the University of Arhus in Denmark. He has also taken classes at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, the University of Nevada at Reno and Judges College in Reno, Nevada.

Judge McGhee is licensed to practice law in the local, state and federal courts. He was elected to the national board of the National Bar Association and was president of the Iowa National Bar Association for over ten years. He was elected group chair of the National Prosecutor Association and was very active in committee work. He has served on several special committees (Grievance, Bench Bar, Jury Instructions, Minority issues, and Criminal Law) of the Iowa State Bar Association and on the Executive Board of the Polk County Bar Association. He served four terms on the Iowa Supreme Courts Commission on Continuing Legal Education, and was a temporary examiner with the Iowa Board of Law Examiners. Judge McGhee was also on the Executive Board of the Young Lawyers Division of the Iowa State Bar Association.

As a member of the Iowa community Judge McGhee was selected or appointed to the Des Moines Waterworks (Chairman and Member), the Des Moines Housing Authority (Chairman and Member), the Hillside Development Commission (member), the Des Moines Playhouse (member), The Corinthian Garden Senior Citizen and Handicapped Apartment Complex (Chairman, Vice Chair, and member), The Corinthian Baptist Church Trustee Board (Chair, vice-chair and member), the Salvation Army Advisory Council (member and chair of the basketball program), the Metro Arts Board(member), the United Way of Iowa Board (member), the Drake University Board of Counselor for the Law School (member), The National Poetry Society (vice-chair), the Langston Hughes Theatrical Troupe (director and member); the I'll Make Me a World Committee (member), The Morris Scholarship Fund (chair, vice chair, and member), Minister of Outreach, Corinthian Baptist Church, the NAACP Legal Redress Committee (chair and member), the Council for International Living, the Community Scholarship Program, and the Iowa task Force on Men. He has further actively supported the Boys Scouts and other charitable organizations.

Since Judge McGhee's graduation from Drake University, he has worked as a Program Planner with the Iowa Commission on the Aging where he developed a statewide legal delivery system for older Iowans. As part of his responsibilities he wrote a guide on elderly concerns that was titled "Answers for Older Iowans'. A major part of his responsibilities was the drafting of legislation pertaining to elderly and handicapped rights and lobbying for senior citizens. After leaving the Elderly Commission in mid- 1979, he was employed by the Iowa Department of Environmental Quality as an Administrative Hearing Officer. His responsibilities included conducting all contested hearings, writing opinions and supervising the technical support staff. He heard cases concerned with pollution issues of the water, land and air of Iowa. He was also periodically assigned to hear contested cases from the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Iowa Merit Employment Commission. In 1982, he was assign to direct litigation of the air and water sections of the Compliance Division of the Commission found other employment by the end of 1982 when the started at the Polk County Attorneys Office. At the Polk County Attorneys Office he supervised the drug and vice docket fro five years and was the lead attorney for the prosecution of felonies in the general crime bureau. He was then assigned to the Major Offense Bureau where he was special assigned to direct dockets dealing with white-collar crimes and vehicular homicide. He also prosecuted fifteen murder cases with that division. For five years he was specially assigned to the Civil Division, where he developed an expertise in defending discrimination suits filed against Polk County. As part of his responsibilities he lectured at the Iowa State Police Academy and the Des Moines Police Academy.

While an Assistant Polk County Attorney, he worked part time as a certified mediator with the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board and the Polk County Mediation Center. He was also an adjunct professor of Law teaching business law, torts, criminal law, and constitutional law at Drake and the Des Moines Area Community College.

In February of 2002 Judge McGhee was appointed the Polk County District Court where he has been assigned a civil docket. He is only the fifth African American Judge to be appointed in the State of Iowa. He has a special interest in young people and equal justice for all under the law. He has served on the juvenile, criminal trial, probation, alcohol drugs, and domestic abuse dockets, with a special interest in trial and substance abuse.

Judge McGhee directs the Langston Hughes Company of Players, a local minority theatrical troupe that presents the history of African America through music, dance, and the written word. The group dramatizes the experiences of Black Americans by presenting vignettes from four distinct segments of their history: Slavery, Jim Crow, Harlem Renaissance and modern times. The troupe is made up of approximately 25 members, with six to ten performing in each production.

Judge McGhee is a champion of the regular man. He has spent all his life championing causes and issues that will make the average person's life easier and successful. The above list is only a part of his many accomplishments. He has taken an interest in young minority students and has spent many, many hours working with the youth at his church and also in a multitude of programs including the Polk County Youth Offender's Program, The Boy's Scouts, The Salvation Army Basketball Program, and programs in the Des Moines Public School. He is known throughout Iowa for his presentations on the African American Experience. This year alone, he made presentations at Simpson College, Drake, DMACC, Cornell College, Valley High School, and at several churches in Des Moines.

Judge McGhee is an adopted father. It is obvious that he take the needs and the plight of young children seriously in that he has taken one into his home.

Judge McGhee has also been very active in the "I'll Make Me A World Festival". He has performed individually and through the Langston Hughes Players. He has served on the planning Committee for several years and continues to advise the group on innovative ideas and concepts to strengthen the affair.

As central spokesman and counselor to the Committee to Build a Monument to the Founders of the National Bar Association, he is presently working with federal, state and local officials and private enterprise to erect a national memorial. It is projected that the monument will cost in excess of three quarters of a million dollars and will be erected on the Des Moines River Walk and/or the State Capitol grounds.

Cosponsored By:
  • Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication
  • Iowa State Daily
  • Lee Enterprises
  • Society of Professional Journalists - ISU Chapter
  • Committee on Lectures (funded by Student Government)

Stay for the entire event, including the brief question-and-answer session that follows the formal presentation. Most events run 75 minutes.

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