Judge Pincham dies at 82

April 3, 2008 4:22:45 PM PDT
A legendary Chicago lawyer and former judge is being remembered. R. Eugene Pincham has died at the age of 82. Pincham's legacy includes his tireless efforts to correct inequalities in the justice system.

Pincham was also a longtime civil rights activist and he played a role in Chicago politics. He never had a problem speaking truth to power or upsetting the establishment. He's done so in this city for decades, earning many admirers along the way.

"I think of him as the consummate country lawyer," said James Montgomery, Sr., attorney.

The persona of a country lawyer, maybe, but Eugene Pincham practiced law, politics and activism with the best of them.

"He was a great orator, a guy who could develop a theory of defense in a criminal case when there was no defense," said Montgomery.

Pincham used his legal practice to take on instances of entrenched racism in the police department that he felt polluted the justice system.

In recent years, Pincham helped in R. Kelly's legal defense. He worked on behalf of the owners of the E2 nightclub where 21 people died. And, following the murder of Ryan Harris, Pincham came to the defense of the 7 and 8 year old boys originally charged with her murder.

"These children have no more of concept of what's going on that I have of what's on the surface of Pluto," Pincham said.

"For a man that just had no fear in him whatsoever in regards to anything, just about anything. The only thing that I would say that angered him the most was injustice, and it was injustice no matter where it was at," said Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th Ward.

"Today the legal community of Chicago lost a giant in the courtroom. Gene Pincham was one of the finest trial lawyers I have had the privilege of knowing," said Chief Judge James Holderman, U.S. District Court, Northern Illinois.

Pincham tried to parlay his courtroom and community victories into campaigns. He ran unsuccessfully for Cook County Board president and mayor of Chicago.

"Nothing has happened or will ever happen to deter my role God has given me to try to help my people," Pincham said in February, 1987.

But Pincham got into trouble a few years later when he delivered a controversial call to action during Harold Washington's 1987 re-election race:

"Any man south of Madison who doesn't come out and vote and vote for Harold Washington ought to be hung," he said.

"What he was trying to do was glutinate people, to get people in the community to come and rally around Harold Washington because Harold was in a tough race," said Ald. Ed Smith, 28th Ward.

When Pincham ran for mayor against Richard Daley in 1991 he told supporters he couldn't simply win by one vote. He -- only half jokingly -- said he needed to win by at least 50,000 or the machine would steal votes to overcome the difference.


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