The Pursuit of Excellence

The Pursuit of Excellence

Judge Wiley Daniel, a true role model for all children of color, is a prime example that the color of one’s skin should not, and does not put a limit on what he or she can accomplish in life.  A law school graduate of Howard University, in Washington, D.C., Judge Daniel has a list of accomplishments that would impress anyone throughout his prosperous career.

Born and raised in the city of Louisville, Kentucky, Judge Daniel is the son of Wiley B. Daniel Jr. and Lavinia Y. Daniel.  He was an only child.  He was born on September, 10th 1946.  He is currently 72 years old.

Being the child of two parents in the education field, Daniel naturally excelled in academically.  His father was an elementary school principal.  His mother was an elementary school teacher.  With their guidance, Daniel managed to cruise through grade school and graduated high school with an acceptance letter into Howard University in 1964.

Daniel’s outstanding academic achievements followed him from high school into college.  Originally, he entered college as Zoology major.  Two years in, he embarked on the path to his passion in life.  He eventually changed his major to government and history, and in his junior he decided to go to law school.  Judge Daniel graduated from Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in government in the summer of 1968. Daniel began as a student at Howard University School of Law that fall. He graduated from law school in the spring of 1971 with a Juris Doctorate degree.  

“I liked law school.  I did well.  I finished near the top of my class academically.  I thoroughly enjoyed the study of law, which then led me to pursue a career as a lawyer for 24 years, and then in my 24th year, as a United States District Judge,” Daniel said. “I was the first African American ever appointed as a Federal Judge in the State of Colorado.”

Life after college led to a promising career for Daniel.  As a lawyer, he was President of the Colorado Bar Association, served as an officer for other bar associations like the Sam Cary Bar Association and the Denver Bar Association, and was a member of the Supreme Court Grievance Committee.  He spent six years in Detroit as an attorney and 18 years in Denver.

“Gradually, I worked in big law firms.  Although, throughout my career I did pro bono work for disadvantaged and poor people, while still working as a lawyer at several law firms,” he said.

Eventually, his drive and passion for his work led him to one of the major accomplishments of his career.  On September 1st, 1995, Daniel was sworn in as a U. S. District Judge and was appointed to the U.S. Court for the District of Colorado by President Bill Clinton; becoming the first African American to serve on the Court.

Following his election onto the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Daniel also had many other accomplishments.  In 2008, he became Chief Judge of the Court.  In 2013, he assumed Senior Judge Status.  He currently presides over a demanding case load.  From May 2009 to April 2011, he served as President of the Federal Judges Association.  From August 2013 to April 2015, Daniel was appointed as a special mediator for the City of Detroit’s bankruptcy proceeding.  From 2013 to the present he sits, by designation, on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“It’s a job I think I’ve done well at and enjoy it,” Daniel says.
He has been a judge for the last 23 years.  His work clearly speaks for itself.  Not many people have a list of achievements as extensive as his.

Despite growing up in a difficult time, being a man of color is something that has never held Daniels back.  He grew up in the segregated south.  When he was younger, blacks and whites were not allowed to go to the same schools.  In fact, everything was segregated.  Daniel didn’t attend an integrated school until high school, but public accommodations were still segregated.  He didn’t let that hold him back.  He did what he had to do to succeed.

“When I grew up, I understood that there were some things that blacks couldn’t do because they weren’t allowed to.  I understood that once those barriers were eliminated, that I wanted to have big dreams and do important things in life.  I believed, even today, that institutional racism does exist, has existed and still exists.  You have to be sensitive to it to make sure you don’t allow it to stop you from doing what you want to do,” he said.

Daniel has accomplished a lot in his 72 years of life.  He has gone above and beyond to create a legacy for himself and open doors for other people of color who hope to do what he did in the future.  Hopefully, the next generation can learn from this and accomplish even more.  Only time will tell, but an example has been made.  Now it is time to learn from it.