Judge George W. Draper will become Missouri’s next chief justice July 1, by order of the Supreme Court of Missouri.
He will become the state’s African-American second chief justice; Judge Ronnie White, the first black to serve on the Supreme Court of Missouri, was chief justice 2003-5. Draper was, however, the first African-American chief judge of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, from July 2004 through June 2005.
Draper, a St. Louis native, attended Hamilton Elementary School in St. Louis before his family moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, where he completed his education in the public school system.
He received his bachelor of arts in psychology in 1977 from Morehouse College in Atlanta and, following in the footsteps of his father and his wife, Judge Judy Draper, received his law degree in 1981 from Howard University in Washington, D.C.
He then clerked for the Honorable Shellie Bowers (also a St. Louis native) of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Draper returned to St. Louis in 1984 as a prosecutor in the St. Louis circuit attorney’s office, for which was promoted to a team leader position in 1990 and to first assistant in 1993.
In July 1994, Draper was appointed as an associate circuit judge of the 21st Judicial Circuit (St. Louis County) by Governor Mel Carnahan. Four years later, Carnahan appointed Draper as a circuit judge for the 21st Judicial Circuit.
In October 2011, Governor Jeremiah (Jay) Nixon appointed Draper to the Supreme Court of Missouri; voters retained him in November 2012. He is chair of the state’s treatment courts coordinating commission and serves as the court’s liaison to the judiciary’s family court committee as well as its ad hoc committee on racial and ethnic fairness.
Draper and his wife, the Honorable Judy P. Draper, a former St. Louis County associate circuit judge, live in St. Louis County and have one daughter, Chelsea Westin Draper, JD/LLM, who serves as deputy chief of staff to the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney. Draper also is a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and the Covenant Community Church in north St. Louis County.
Since 1996, he also has served as an adjunct professor of law at Saint Louis University, where he teaches trial advocacy.
Draper’s term as chief justice will run through June 30, 2021. He succeeds Judge Zel M. Fischer, who remains on the Court.
Chris King is the editor of the St. Louis American, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.
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