Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

"Judge Dan" Dies; Longtime Judge Sentenced a Man to 150 Years for Beating Boy to Death

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

"Judge Dan" Dies; Longtime Judge Sentenced a Man to 150 Years for Beating Boy to Death

Article excerpt

Judge Daniel Tillman was an imposing figure in his courtroom in St. Louis Circuit Court, particularly for those who had done wrong.

"Judge Dan," as some called him, stood 6 feet, 4 inches and weighed 250 pounds. He once sent a man to prison for 150 years for beating to death a 2-year-old boy he was trying to potty-train.

Judge Tillman worked hard to come up with what he considered to be just the right sentence. He wanted justice for the defendant and the victim.

He warned youngsters who came through his courtroom for tours to stay out of trouble and not to return as defendants.

Judge Daniel Thomas Tillman died Wednesday (July 23, 2014) at the Life Care Centers of America nursing facility in St. Louis from complications of Alzheimer's disease, his family said. He was 86 and a longtime resident of the Central West End.

He grew up in North Carolina, never planning on living in St. Louis. After graduating in 1954 from Georgetown University School of Law, in only the second class to accept African-Americans, he returned to North Carolina, studied for the bar exam and passed.

When he showed up before the justice of the peace to be sworn in, he said the judge looked him in the eye and said: "What can I do for you, boy?"

That's when Judge Tillman decided he didn't want to be part of the legal system in North Carolina. A friend suggested St. Louis. He moved here, with no job, place to live or friends. He stayed at the old YMCA for African-Americans on Pine Street and took a job teaching at a business school. On the side, he prepared taxes.

After passing the Missouri Bar, he shared a law office with Robert Witherspoon, who later was named to the Board of Police Commissioners. He got a job as an assistant circuit attorney. He became a friend of Frederick Weathers, the "dean of black politics," who helped introduce him to the right politicians.

In 1970, Gov. Warren E. Hearnes named Judge Tillman to the bench on the St. Louis Circuit Court. There were relatively few black judges at the time. …

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