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Emory mourns passing of Judge Marvin Arrington Sr.

Judge Marvin Arrington in court

A renowned attorney who served as president of the Atlanta City Council and as a Superior Court judge, Marvin Arrington Sr. was an Emory trustee emeritus and one of the first Black graduates of Emory Law.

Emory University joins Atlanta and the nation in mourning the loss of Judge Marvin Arrington Sr., who passed away July 5 at age 82.

“We have lost a trailblazer who will forever be celebrated at Emory and across the great city of Atlanta. Judge Arrington was one of the first African Americans to graduate from Emory Law,” says Emory President Gregory L. Fenves. “He became a renowned attorney who served as president of the Atlanta City Council and as a Fulton County judge. He was an Emory trustee who inspired and gave back to our students in countless ways. Our thoughts are with the Arrington family as we honor his remarkable life and legacy.”

In 1965, Arrington and his friend Clarence Cooper transferred from the Howard University School of Law to Emory Law, becoming the first African American full-time law students at Emory. Both completed their studies in 1967, among the law school’s first Black graduates.

“Clarence and I pretty much stayed to ourselves and did our work,” Arrington recalled in a 1998 interview with Emory Magazine. “We didn’t have people jumping up and down because we sat next to them. And friends made during law school have been lifetime friends.”

As his legal and political career grew, Arrington remained dedicated to Emory. He served as a member of the Emory Law Advisory Board, formerly known as the Law School Council, to help deans make decisions that enabled the graduation of generations of bright, prepared students.

In 1988, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the law school and the Emory Medal from the university. The Emory Medal is the university’s most prestigious alumni award and honors recipients who are leaders in their field as well as leaders in their local, national and global communities.  

Arrington served as a member of the Emory University Board of Trustees for 16 years, from 1990 to 2006, and was a member of the board’s Campus Life committee and Real Estate, Buildings and Grounds committee during both his active years of service and for several years after he retired. His papers, spanning 1980 to 2004 and including his tenure as Atlanta City Council president, are held by Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library.

During Emory Law’s 2017 centennial celebration, Arrington was named one of the school’s Emory Law 100, a group of notable people — nominated by a Centennial Advisory Committee consisting of faculty, staff and alumni — who represent the best of Emory Law’s history. The list honors alumni and faculty for advancing the rule of law, making history at Emory or beyond, and significantly advancing the Emory or Emory Law community. Arrington also was a regular supporter of Emory Law through the Class of 1967 Scholarship.

“While the world recognizes Judge Arrington for his stellar public service career culminating in his post as a judge in Fulton County, Georgia, Superior Court, the Emory community also cherishes his part in our school’s history,” says Mary Anne Bobinski, Emory Law dean and Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law. “We honor the life of this outstanding man for his profound contributions to Emory — and for his lifelong service to the community and his commitment to fair housing, equity and representation.”

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