William E. McAnulty Jr. '71GE, '74 L

Running the bases with Jackie Robinson

By Amanda D. White

William E. McAnulty Jr. was born the same year that Jackie Robinson made history by becoming the first African American in Major League Baseball. Now he has something in common with his personal hero.

McAnulty became the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of Kentucky this past summer when he was appointed to fill the position vacated by retiring Justice Martin E. Johnstone. He then won the November election to maintain his place on the court for a full eight-year term.

McAnulty, who represents the 4th Supreme Court District consisting of Jefferson County, is a UofL graduate in education and law. After completing his masters in special education at UofL in 1970, the Indiana native had planned to return to Indiana University to work on his Ph.D.

But a "cathartic moment" led him to decide that he would be better suited for law—a decision that he has never regretted.

"There aren't many jobs in the world where you have the call over life and death," he says. "You're part of the final word as far as people's liberty, their property and their children—all sorts of things. It's about as significant as it gets."

McAnulty often reflects on his heroes-figures like Jackie Robinson whose impact on baseball was "quite the story" of his childhood.

"I always admired him both on the field and off the field because not only was he a great baseball player, but he was a civil rights advocate and a very articulate, strong individual who just stood for a lot that I believed in."

He also credits President John F. Kennedy for giving him hope during a time when hope was spread thin.


"Growing up in that era with Emmett Till and turning on the television and watching federal troops having to lead people to the University of Mississippi to receive the same benefit that any other citizen would receive—they were all setbacks," McAnulty recalls. "It seemed that through the fifties there was not much hope.

"John Kennedy lit the torch and said this America is for everybody and the opportunity was there. His inspiration played a role in lot of my hopes. His spirit was very significant in my life."

Today, McAnulty's heroes include his father, who is still living and always has encouraged him in his professional pursuits, and retired circuit court judge Bill Schultz. "He's just a model for every lawyer and every judge. He exudes the ability, patience and intellect—the whole package."

UofL also has played a significant role in McAnulty's life. Some of his fondest memories center on former law school dean James Meredith.

"It's hard to describe because he had a sparkle about him," McAnulty says. "He was just so supportive from the day I got there until the day I left. Certainly I give him credit for where my life is today."

McAnulty has had 28 years of experience on the bench, beginning his judicial career in juvenile court in 1975. He served as a Kentucky Court of Appeals judge prior to his Kentucky Supreme Court appointment. With all of his years of experience, McAnulty still gets humbled by his new place on the state's highest court.

"You don't realize the magnitude of it until you get there," he says. "I started back in August, and I remember sitting here in the conference room the first day. After 28 years of being a trial judge and an appellate judge, I was still overwhelmed … I almost felt like a 10-year-old kid sitting there."

When McAnulty finds time to relax, you can find him on the baseball field, coaching his son.

"Probably the most enjoyable moments outside of work are done on the field with my son, his friends, watching them grow up athletically," he says. "As adults, we need to spend as much time as we can with the next generation."

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