A picture of Senator Joe Manchin, III
Joe M.
Democrat WV

About Sen. Joe
  • Executive Session

    by Senator Joe Manchin, III

    Posted on 2013-02-27

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    MANCHIN. Mr. President, I ask permission to speak as in morning business.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Congratulating Dr. Frank Cleckley on His Retirement Mr. MANCHIN. Mr. President, I rise to pay tribute to Dr. Franklin D. Cleckley, one of the true giants of the legal system of West Virginia. I do so because Frank is getting ready to retire after nearly half a century of service to our great State--as a lawyer, as a professor, as a judge, and as an unwavering champion of justice. I wish to congratulate him for the extraordinary job he has done and to thank him for his countless contributions to the betterment of West Virginia.

    Dr. Cleckley's stellar and pioneering legal career began in 1965 when he earned his law degree from Indiana University. It will end next week at West Virginia University with a retirement ceremony that so many of his family, friends, and colleagues will be attending to celebrate this great man. I only wish I could be there because I have valued and appreciated his friendship for so many years.

    Frank Cleckley joined the faculty at West Virginia University College of Law in 1969, after serving as a lawyer in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps at the height of the Vietnam war. Not only was he the first African American on the staff at the West Virginia University College of Law, he was also the first full-time African- American professor in the history of West Virginia University.

    As a law professor at West Virginia University, Frank literally wrote the book on practicing law in West Virginia. He authored two you will find in every courtroom and every lawyer's office in West Virginia--the ``Handbook on Evidence for West Virginia Lawyers,'' and the ``Handbook on West Virginia Criminal Procedure.'' These two books are continually updated and are, in the words of the West Virginia Supreme Court, the bible for West Virginia's judges and attorneys.

    Of course, for the generations of West Virginia law students who have passed through Dr. Cleckley's classroom, the fact that he wrote those two books is a source of great amusement for them, whenever they hear him quoting himself in his lectures. ``As it says in `Cleckley,' '' Professor Cleckley would say with a smile.

    Also, as a member of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, the first African-American justice in our State, Frank Cleckley would pay special attention when lawyers stumbled over evidence in their arguments. And on more than one occasion, Justice Cleckley would quietly quip to one of his colleagues: There's one lawyer who didn't take my evidence class.

    Frank Cleckley grew up in Huntington, WV, the youngest of 11 children. At one point, his ambition was to play pro football. But after working for former Indiana Congressman J. Edward Roush in the 1960s, he found his true calling--to be a lawyer and champion of civil rights.

    Throughout his legal career, he has been an exceptional trial lawyer, not only in antidiscrimination lawsuits, but also in representing clients who couldn't pay him. In fact, he came to be known as the ``poor man's Perry [[Page S922]] Mason.'' He has been a one-man legal aid society.

    He also was instrumental in reviving the Mountain State Bar Association, the oldest minority bar in the United States. In 1990, he established the Franklin D. Cleckley Foundation to help former prisoners with education and employment opportunities. Two years later, he set up another organization to bring civil rights leaders to the West Virginia University as lecturers.

    Last fall, as he reflected on his long legal career, Frank said that when he was a kid in Huntington, he wanted to do something with his life that was meaningful and important in West Virginia. Well, he did. But it turns out it wasn't the NFL, as he once thought. It was WVU. Frank Cleckley is a true Mountaineer. He helped West Virginia University become the nationally respected institution it is today.

    The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. And, in my view, one of the reasons it bends toward justice is there are people such as Frank Cleckley bending it with their honesty, their integrity, and their commitment to what is right.

    It fills me with great pride to stand here today and tell the Senate about the accomplishments of Prof. Frank Cleckley and his service to West Virginia. He is a great lawyer, he is a great man, and a great West Virginian, and Gayle and I join his family and friends in celebrating his long and distinguished pursuit of justice.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maryland.

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