Homepage Sidebar

This program is supported by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.


Donald L. Graham

Donald L. Graham

United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida Miami, Florida

Born: Salisbury, North Carolina-December 15, 1948.
Education: West Virginia State College (B.A., magna cum laude, 1971); Ohio State University College of Law, (J.D. 1974).
Judge Graham was appointed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida on September 16, 1991 by President Bush.

Judge Graham grew up in a middle class family in racially segregated North Carolina. His mother was an elementary school teacher and his father a state clerk. He credits many of his teachers for "urging that the path to success, even in the midst of their totally segregated society, was education." Of his decision to become a lawyer, he says:

As a result of the civil rights era of the 1960's, I decided that I wanted to become an attorney. Experiencing segregation at its worst as a youngster in North Carolina created an indelible impression on me. I felt that if I was to affect social change, it could best be done through the practice of law.

In 1974, upon graduation from Ohio State University College of Law, Graham joined the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps, United States Army, in Charlottesville, Virginia. In the JAG Corps, he served as an Assistant Staff Judge Advocate at Homestead Air Force Base, Homestead, Florida; an Assistant Staff Judge Advocate Officer in Charge, Gelnhausen Legal Center, West Germany; and as a Prosecuting and Defense Counsel, Third Armored Division, Frankfurt, West Germany. During the same time period, he was an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Maryland-European Division, Hanau, West Germany.

From 1979 to 1984, Judge Graham was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida in Miami, Florida. While with the United States Attorney's Office, he was Chief of the Special Prosecutions Division, Chief of the Major Narcotics Traffickers Section, Chief of the Intake Unit, and on Special Assignment with the Department of Justice Organized Crime and Racketeering Section (Miami Strike Force).

In 1984, Judge Graham left the United States Attorney's Office to become a founding partner of the law firm of Raskin & Graham, P.A. He remained in private practice until he was appointed to the federal bench in 1991.

Judge Graham has received numerous awards and academic honors. He was a West Virginia Board of Regents Distinguished Military Graduate and a member of the Alpha Kappa Mu National Honor Society. During law school, Graham was a member of the Honor Council, a Moot Court Best Oralist Award recipient, and a recipient of the Judge Harter Memorial Hooding Award as the Outstanding Trial Practice student, an award that convinced him that he could be competitive at the highest level. Later, while with the Department of Justice, Judge Graham received a Special Achievement Award, and the Arthur S. Fleming Award, which is presented to one of ten outstanding young men and women in Federal Service. Also, in 1989, Judge Graham received a Certificate of Merit from the Dade County Bar Association. Additionally Judge Graham is the recipient of the United States Army Commendation Medal with First, Second, Third and Fourth Oak Leaf Clusters, and a United States Army Achievement Medal.

Judge Graham sought appointment as a federal judge not because of any lifelong ambition, but because, at that time, there were no African-American federal judges in the State of Florida. He urges aspiring lawyers and judges "to get the best undergraduate and post-graduate education possible" and to "become involved in community activities and bar functions so that others are aware of their accomplishments."

Send this page to a friend