The Chicago judge who became a legend, fighting for voting rights, desegregation and racial equality had one final wish.

That wish –– to be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery –– was finally fulfilled on Monday.

George N. Leighton, the namesake of the Cook County criminal courthouse at 26th and California, died at the age of 105 from pneumonia complications in June.

Because of strict rules to be buried at the U.S. Army’s cemetery, Leighton’s wish was not guaranteed.

But U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., discovered in archived military records that Leighton had been a prisoner in a Japanese P.O.W. camp, which made him eligible. Leighton received a purple heart for his service in WWII.

George N. Leighton

George N. Leighton | Sun-Times Library

U.S. District Chief Judge Rubén Castillo said it was honor to be at Monday’s “moving ceremony.”

“Judge Leighton was a true patriot in every sense of the word –– from his service to our nation during World War II to his courageous work as a civil rights attorney to his years of distinguished service on both the state and federal court benches,” Castillo said in a statement.

Leighton was a longtime county and federal judge and the first African-American to sit on the Illinois Appellate Court.

He helped integrate the Board of Managers of the Chicago Bar Association and was a former president of the Chicago NAACP.

In 1951, he was arrested on the premise of inciting riots for representing Harvey Clark, an African-American man who tried moving into an apartment in segregated Cicero.


• Judge George Leighton to get dying wish of Arlington burial

• George Leighton, legendary Chicago judge and courthouse namesake, dies at 105