Speaking Truth to Power: The Legacy of Raymond Bolden
As a highly esteemed lawyer and judge in the Joliet area, Raymond Bolden had the power to give a case context, and tell a captivating story of why it mattered. He was also a beloved friend, mentor, and more, with many individuals looking up to him professionally and as an individual. His legacy will forever have a print within the Will County legal community.
“If the community needed a credible voice to speak truth to power, Judge Bolden was always up to the task,” said Will County Circuit Judge, Vincent Cornelius. “If he was invited to be the guest speaker, you could expect a packed house. You left one of his speeches less ignorant, more knowledgeable, and with food for thought.”
Bolden was Will County’s first Black Assistant State’s Attorney, President of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a criminal defense lawyer, Will County Associate Judge, and Circuit Court Judge. Recognized as a trailblazer by his fellow lawyers, judges, and loved ones, he also had many awards and accolades, as well as being one of the founders of the Warren Sharpe Center and the Black Bar Association of Will County.
“The impact of his influence and service to our Will County community and beyond will continue to serve and benefit future generations,” said Will County Associate Judge, Chrystel Gavlin. “Many of us [judges] have considered the time we spent in his courtroom as one of the best experiences in our legal careers.”
A life passion for Bolden included speaking up about racism, inequality, and the unfair treatment of people of color in the legal system. He was active in the civil rights movement throughout his life and career and will go down in history as a patron of African American attorneys and judges in the community.
Those who knew Bolden as a judge and person fervidly believe he had a natural understanding of people, a sense of discernment, and distinctive compassion. Being an exceptional judge was inside of him, something that will remain long after his professional presence.
“Raymond Bolden was small in height but stood tall in his determination to improve the lives of others; he practiced what he preached,” said 12th Judicial Circuit Judge, Carmen Goodman. “For me, personally, Judge Bolden was my idol, my hero, and my friend.”
Goodman recounts a dear memory of Bolden sitting in his kitchen during the Christmas holidays as he gathered young African American lawyers together that later became the Black Bar Association of Will County, the first African American lawyers’ association outside of Cook County. They admired his fair and even-tempered ways, and ability to be a great listener, confident, respectful, and always willing to provide honest feedback.
Bolden’s wise, compassionate, and courageous touch will forever be missed within the Will County legal community but his spirit and memory as a lawyer and judge live on.
“I always loved to see Ray holding court around the house and at gatherings of family and friends,” Cornelius said. “His pipe would be ablaze, his head slightly tilted, his smile confident, and his wit quick and sharp. He was an unrivaled storyteller.”
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