Petersburg judge to receive honor for legal career


Judge Harlington Wood Jr. of Petersburg will receive a lifetime achievement award for a legal career spanning more than half a century at ceremonies in Chicago next month.

Wood, who sits on the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, will receive the American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the 7th Circuit at the annual meeting of the 7th Circuit Bar Association and Judicial Conference.

The award will be presented at a banquet May 6, following remarks by U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Wood will be a co-recipient of the award along with retired 7th Circuit Judge William Bauer of Chicago.

The AIC Professionalism Award is given annually in each federal judicial circuit to "a senior practicing judge or lawyer whose life and practices display sterling character and unquestioned integrity, coupled with ongoing dedication to the highest standards of the legal profession and the rule of law," according to an AIC publication.

The American Inns of Court is a national organization founded in 1980 by former Chief Justice Warren Burger with 24,000 members and 320 chapters, or "inns." Membership is made up of judges, lawyers, law professors and law students.

"The purpose of the organization is to promote professionalism, ethics, enhanced legal skills and to build a better legal community," according to AIC spokesman Dick Page.

A 1942 graduate of the University of Illinois and a 1948 graduate of the U of I Law School, Wood served in the U.S. Army during World War II, rising to the rank of major and serving in both the European and Asiatic theaters of operations.

He was in private law practice for a decade before being appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower to be U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois in 1958.

After a brief return to private practice, he was named executive head of U.S. attorney in the Justice Department in 1969. In 1970, he became U.S. associate deputy attorney general, and in 1972 President Richard Nixon appointed him assistant U.S. attorney general in charge of the civil division.

In 1973, Nixon appointed Wood U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Illinois, and in 1976, President Gerald Ford named him to his current position.

Wood was once considered for the position of director of the FBI but withdrew because he did not feel he was right for the position.

He was chief government negotiator during the 1973 71-day siege at Wounded Knee, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He has been credited with keeping bloodshed to a minimum in the standoff between government agents and 200 armed members of the American Indian Movement.

Wood completed a number of other special assignments for the Justice Department and has served on a variety of U.S. Judicial Conference Committees. He has traveled extensively, including three trips around the world, five trips to the former Soviet Union and one trip to Russia. During some of those travels, he has worked with foreign judges in former Iron Curtain countries helping them establish democratic legal systems.

He is a former president of the Abraham Lincoln Association and former chairman of the Lincoln Legal Papers research project.

His father, Harlington Wood Sr., was a Sangamon County judge for 16 years.

Doug Pokorski can be reached at 788-1539 or

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