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Former chief judge Adam Shakoor recalls how his career started in Detroit

Honorable Adam Shakoor is still a practicing attorney

DETROIT – One of America’s first prominent trailblazing African American judges, the Honorable Adam Shakoor, is a living legend who has been quietly residing in the Motor City.

“I’ve always been an activist. I was an activist in college. I was an activist out of college,” Shakoor said.

Born in 1947 as Adam Caddell, Shakoor graduated from Wayne State University with several post graduate degrees in 1976, deciding to become an attorney and eventually serving two terms as chief judge of the 36th court district here in Detroit.

“I kind of liked the peoples court, the 36 District, and I decided to run for chief judge a couple of years after I had got on the court, and I was successful and selected by my peers as chief judge and we did some pretty good things during that time,” Shakoor said.

Prior to becoming a judge, Shakoor converted to Islam during his time at Wayne State -- prompting the name change. He became the first ever Muslim judge in the country by the time he was appointed in 1981.

“It was during a period when they were transitioning over in urban areas for more black leadership,” he said.

From the late 80s to early 90s, the Detroit native became deputy mayor and chief administrative officer under Mayor Coleman Young.

"Coleman Young as mayor knew that I was burning to have some help for these young people who were caught up in the drugs that were going on in the 1980s,” Shakoor said.

The list of accolades goes on. You can easily see Shakoor’s long list of accomplishments by simply walking through his office.

“To have received recognition for whatever contributions I’ve made ... The struggle continues. I still have more to do as long as God gives me life, I want to serve and do what I have the capacity to do to help others,” he said.

Even though he’s had a long, successful career, Shakoor is still looking to make a difference, which is the reason why he’s still an active attorney to this day.

“I still practice law, yes. One day I’ll learn,” he joked.

But make no mistake, Shakoor may have shattered a glass ceiling, but the man of the hour says there were plenty who deserved the spotlight long before he was in the picture.

“There were African Americans with skill sets that existed many years before my birth. But they just did not have the opportunity which is why I believe activism is still required until we get that color barrier totally removed."

And hopefully one day we can see that happen.

  • For more Black History Month pieces, go here.