D'Army Bailey

Last updated
D'Army Bailey
Born( 1941-11-29)November 29, 1941
DiedJuly 12, 2015(2015-07-12) (aged 73)
Alma mater Clark University
Occupationlawyer, judge, activist, author, actor

D'Army Bailey (November 29, 1941 – July 12, 2015) was an African-American lawyer, circuit court judge, civil rights activist, author, and film actor. Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, he served as a city councilman in Berkeley, California, from 1971-73.

Memphis, Tennessee City in Tennessee, United States

Memphis is a city located along the Mississippi River in southwestern Shelby County, Tennessee, United States. The 2017 city population was 652,236, making Memphis the largest city on the Mississippi River, the second most populous city in Tennessee, as well as the 25th largest city in the United States. Greater Memphis is the 42nd largest metropolitan area in the United States, with a population of 1,348,260 in 2017. The city is the anchor of West Tennessee and the greater Mid-South region, which includes portions of neighboring Arkansas and Mississippi. Memphis is the seat of Shelby County, the most populous county in Tennessee. As one of the most historic and cultural cities of the southern United States, the city features a wide variety of landscapes and distinct neighborhoods.

Berkeley, California City in California, United States

Berkeley is a city on the east shore of San Francisco Bay in northern Alameda County, California. It is named after the 18th-century Irish bishop and philosopher George Berkeley. It borders the cities of Oakland and Emeryville to the south and the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington to the north. Its eastern border with Contra Costa County generally follows the ridge of the Berkeley Hills. The 2010 census recorded a population of 112,580.


Bailey was the founder of the National Civil Rights Museum which opened in 1991 at Memphis’s Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was slain in 1968. His 1993 book, Mine Eyes Have Seen: Dr. Martin Luther King’s Final Journey, focused on that period. A second book, The Education of a Black Radical, published in October 2009 by LSU Press, recalls Bailey's own history in the civil rights movement. His interest in civil liberties issues also led Bailey to film, where he portrayed a judge in the 1999 film The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996). [1]

National Civil Rights Museum hotel that was site of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., now a museum

The National Civil Rights Museum is a complex of museums and historic buildings in Memphis, Tennessee; its exhibits trace the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the 17th century to the present. The museum is built around the former Lorraine Motel which was the site of the assassination of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. Two other buildings and their adjacent property, also connected with the King assassination, have been acquired as part of the museum complex.

Martin Luther King Jr. U.S. civil rights movement leader

Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. Born in Atlanta, King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, tactics his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi helped inspire.

<i>The People vs. Larry Flynt</i> 1996 film by Miloš Forman

The People vs. Larry Flynt is a 1996 American biographical drama film directed by Miloš Forman and starring Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, and Edward Norton. It chronicles the rise of pornographic magazine publisher and editor Larry Flynt and his subsequent clash with religious institutions and the law.

He had roles in seven other movies, including portrayals ranging from a minister to a street-hustling pool player. Bailey received his law degree from Yale Law School in 1967. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts in 2010. As a lawyer, he practiced for 16 years in Memphis before being elected as a judge in the Circuit Court of Tennessee's Thirtieth Judicial District in 1990. He presided over a nationally recognized trial lasting four months in 1999 in which three major tobacco firms were acquitted of wrongdoing in contributing to the deaths of smokers. He was twice nominated to serve on the Tennessee Supreme Court. [2]

Yale Law School law school of Yale University

Yale Law School is the law school of Yale University, located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Established in 1824, Yale Law offers the J.D., LL.M., J.S.D., M.S.L., and Ph.D. degrees in law.

Clark University American private university and liberal arts college in Worcester, Massachusetts

Clark University is a private research university in Worcester, Massachusetts. Founded in 1887 with a large endowment from its namesake Jonas Gilman Clark, a prominent businessman, Clark was one of the first modern research universities in the United States. Originally an all-graduate institution, Clark's first undergraduates entered in 1902 and women were first enrolled in 1942. The university now offers 46 majors, minors, and concentrations in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering and allows students to design specialized majors and engage in pre-professional programs. It is noted for its programs in the fields of psychology, geography, physics, biology, and entrepreneurship and is a member of the Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts which enables students to cross-register to attend courses at other area institutions including Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the College of the Holy Cross. As a liberal arts–based research university, Clark makes substantial research opportunities available to its students, notably at the undergraduate level through LEEP project funding, yet is also respected for its intimate environment as the second smallest university counted among the top 66 national universities by U.S. News & World Report and as one of 40 Colleges That Change Lives.

Worcester, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

Worcester is a city in, and the county seat of, Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. Named after Worcester, England, as of the 2010 Census the city's population was 181,045, making it the second most populous city in New England after Boston. Worcester is located approximately 40 miles (64 km) west of Boston, 50 miles (80 km) east of Springfield and 40 miles (64 km) north of Providence. Due to its location in Central Massachusetts, Worcester is known as the "Heart of the Commonwealth", thus, a heart is the official symbol of the city. However, the heart symbol may also have its provenance in lore that the Valentine's Day card, although not invented in the city, was mass-produced and popularized by Esther Howland who resided in Worcester.

In September 2009, Bailey retired from the bench and became a member of Wilkes & McHugh, PA, [3] a national civil litigation law firm, founded in 1985 by Jim Wilkes and Tim McHugh. In 2014, he was again elected to the bench and returned to office September 1, 2014. [4] Bailey lectured at law schools, including Harvard, Loyola in California, Washington and Lee, Washington University in St. Louis, and Notre Dame University. He published legal articles at the law schools at Harvard University, the University of Toledo, Washington and Lee, and Howard University. Bailey has served on the executive committee of the Tennessee Judicial Conference. [5]

Jim Wilkes American lawyer

Jim Wilkes is an American lawyer. Born in Tampa, Florida, he is known for his advocacy on behalf of nursing home residents who have been victims of abuse.

Harvard University Private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with about 6,700 undergraduate students and about 15,250 postgraduate students. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning. Its history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Loyola Marymount University Jesuit university in Los Angeles

Loyola Marymount University (LMU) is a private Jesuit and Marymount research university in Los Angeles, California. Loyola Marymount University traces its history through Loyola College, founded in 1917 as the successor to St. Vincent's College which was founded in 1865, and Marymount College, founded in 1933 with its roots in Marymount School which was founded in 1923. Loyola Marymount, which sits atop the bluffs overlooking Marina Del Rey and Playa Del Rey is the parent school to Loyola Law School located in downtown Los Angeles.

Early years

Bailey was born in South Memphis and grew up near Mississippi Boulevard. He attended the segregated Booker T. Washington High School from 1955–59, as Tennessee resisted desegregating its schools, as did numerous other southern states. Bailey attended the nation's largest historically black university, Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Southern University college located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Southern University and A&M College is a public historically black university in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is the largest HBCU in Louisiana, a member-school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the flagship institution of the Southern University System. Its campus encompasses 512 acres, with an agricultural experimental station on an additional 372-acre site, five miles north of the main campus on Scott's Bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in the northern section of Baton Rouge.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana Capital of Louisiana

Baton Rouge is the capital of the U.S. state of Louisiana. Located on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, it is the parish seat of East Baton Rouge Parish, the most populous parish in Louisiana. It is the 99th most populous city in the United States, and second-largest city in Louisiana after New Orleans. It is also the 16th most populous state capital. As of the U.S. Census Bureau's July 2017 estimate, Baton Rouge had a population of 227,549, down from 229,493 at the 2010 census. Baton Rouge is the center of Greater Baton Rouge, the second-largest metropolitan area in Louisiana, with a population of 834,159 as of 2017, up from 802,484 in 2010 and 829,719 in 2015.

As president of the school’s freshman class, and for the next two years, Bailey was drawn into the fight against segregation. He joined actions such as a sit-in at a Greyhound bus station, picketing against discriminatory hiring practices at Baton Rouge businesses, and leading a march from the Southern University campus to downtown to support fellow students jailed for demonstrating. Bailey led a class boycott later, resulting in his expulsion. News of Bailey's ouster coursed through the civil rights community to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, where sympathetic students had established a scholarship for a civil rights activist. The students raised $2,400 through community appeals, bake sales, and car washes to bring Bailey to Clark and continue his education. [6]

At Clark, he helped organize and became director of the Worcester Student Movement. He invited and hosted Malcolm X as a guest speaker at Clark, worked briefly with Abbie Hoffman in the Worcester leftist movement's early days, and interacted with such civil rights and student activist icons as James Meredith, John Lewis, Tom Hayden, and Allard Lowenstein. The Worcester Student Movement was active tutoring students from the city’s low-income neighborhoods. It also picketed against a downtown department store for not employing blacks as clerks, and organized demonstrations against a city manufacturing company. Bailey began to understand the power of law in advancing change as he assisted with the filing of legal complaints with the federal government to halt discrimination in the city. [7]

Political involvement, public service

With his newly minted degree, Bailey worked in New York as national director of the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council, recruiting law students for civil rights legal work in the South. Later, he moved to San Francisco, California to practice law. He was elected to the Berkeley City Council, where he served from 1971-73. In the tumultuous politics of Berkeley, he pushed efforts to open new job opportunities and for expanding housing, recreational, and child-care programs for residents of the city next to the University of California campus. Eventually, he became ensnared in the divisive, politics that dominated Berkeley city government at the time, and he was recalled from the council in 1973. [8]


In 1974 he returned to Memphis, where he opened a law practice with his brother, Walter Lee Bailey Jr. [8] [9] [10] In 1982 Bailey became part of a group of attorneys and activists who raised $144,000 to buy the Lorraine Motel, site of the King assassination. It had gone to foreclosure and was being sold at auction on the steps of the Shelby County Courthouse. [6] [11] [12]

A year later, Bailey made an unsuccessful run for Memphis mayor. He became more involved in working with others to preserve the motel and establish an civil rights museum there, organizing a foundation to raise money for this purpose. He served as the Board President from 1983 until the Museum opened in 1991. After lobbying to obtain public and private funding for the museum, Bailey resigned from its foundation board within months of the facility’s opening. Bailey said he felt fellow board members had lost sight of a central mission of the museum, which he felt was to inspire advances in civil rights. By then he had been elected as a circuit court judge. He said he envisioned the museum serving as a catalyst for activities aimed at what he said would “carry out the unfinished business of the civil rights movement”. [6] [11] [13]

The museum complex's exhibits trace the story of the struggle for African-American civil rights from the arrival of the first Africans in the American colonies in 1619 through the assassination of King in 1968. A 2001 expansion acquired new buildings for the museum, including the former Bessie Brewer's rooming house at nearby 418 South Main Street, where the shot that killed Dr. King was allegedly fired. In 2014, the main motel building re-opened after a major renovation that upgraded exhibits, adding many interactive elements, and building systems.[ citation needed ]

Law career

From 1976-83, he worked part-time for the Shelby County, Tennessee public defender's office, representing defendants in dozens of cases. During this period he also wrote a weekly opinion column for the Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis. He hosted a local television program, Memphis Forum, and has appeared as a legal and political analyst for Court TV. [14] Before he was first elected as a judge in 1990, he had practiced law for 16 years in Memphis. His general law practice represented clients in criminal and civil cases. Much of his casework was in personal injury law. Bailey served three terms as president of the Memphis chapter of the National Bar Association. He was elected to three judicial terms and was twice nominated to serve on the Tennessee Supreme Court.

After 19 years as a circuit court judge in Tennessee’s Thirtieth Judicial District, Bailey resigned Sept. 15, 2009 to resume a career as a civil trial lawyer. [15] He focused on medical malpractice, nursing home liability, and catastrophic injury. Bailey joined Wilkes & McHugh, P.A., to take part in major cases with a firm recognized as a pioneer in nursing home abuse litigation.[ citation needed ]

Film career

A member of the Screen Actors Guild, Bailey had worked in film for three decades, including with such directors as Oliver Stone, Miloš Forman, Michael Hausman, and Jim Jarmusch. He described acting as “hard work, but it's something different for me.” [16] In The People vs. Larry Flynt, Bailey played a judge in a movie that included a cameo by political consultant and pundit James Carville.

Bailey appeared in Cigarette Girl (2009), set in 2035, a future in which cigarette smokers have been ostracized into ghettos called “smoking sections” and a pack of cigarettes cost more than $60. [16] In Deadline (2012), he played a judge. [17]

Personal life/death

Bailey was married to the former Adrienne Marie Leslie; the couple had two sons, Justin and Merritt. Bailey died on July 12, 2015 of cancer at Methodist Hospital in his native Memphis, Tennessee. [18]

Partial filmography

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  1. Branston, John (June 14, 2006). "Larry Parrish vs. D'Army Bailey: When Worlds Collide". Memphis Flyer. Memphis, TN: Contemporary Media. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
  2. Whitehouse, Ken (September 20, 2006), "A Conversation with SC Nominee Bailey", Nashville Post, Nashville, TN|access-date= requires |url= (help)
  3. Wilkes & McHugh, PA official website, wilkesmchugh.com; accessed July 19, 2015.
  4. "Wilkes & McHugh, P.A." Retrieved October 7, 2009.
  5. Ethics in America: Choosing Justice: Elections and Judicial Independence. Annenberg Media. Fall 2007. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
  6. 1 2 3 Bock, Linda (February 2, 2009). "Lifelong Fight for Civil Rights". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Worcester, MA: Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
  7. Jezer, Marty (1993). Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel. Rutgers University Press.
  8. 1 2 Bailey, D'Army (September 23, 2003), "A History Lesson from Berkeley in the 1970s", Berkeley Daily Planet, Berkeley, CA, retrieved October 7, 2009
  9. Slater, Jack (October 1971), "The Guard Changes in Berkeley", Ebony Magazine, Berkeley, CA|access-date= requires |url= (help)
  10. Granville Davis, J. Don (December 1974), "The Review of Black Political Economy", The Review of Black Political Economy|access-date= requires |url= (help)
  11. 1 2 Norment, Lynn (April 1992), "Memphis Motel Becomes a Shrine", Ebony Magazine, Berkeley, CA|access-date= requires |url= (help)
  12. "ABC Evening News". ABC Evening News. December 13, 1982.
  13. "ABC Evening News". ABC Evening News. September 2009.
  14. Interview with D'Army Bailey
  15. Dries, Bill (September 1, 2009). "Judge's Resignation Spotlights Nominating Commission". Memphis Daily News. Retrieved August 31, 2009.
  16. 1 2 Leonard, Gill (October 29, 2009). "D'Army Bailey: Activist, Attorney, Actor". Memphis Flyer. Retrieved August 31, 2009.)
  17. "Murder Mystery Filming To Be Set In Giles County Courtroom" Archived 2011-02-05 at the Wayback Machine , Pulaski Citizen; accessed July 16, 2015.
  18. Notice of death of D'Army Bailey Archived 2015-07-13 at the Wayback Machine , startribune.com; accessed July 16, 2015.