Who is Bill Noakes?

In September 1963 in Washington, D.C., a seven year old Black boy is talking with his dad. His dad has asked what he'd like to be when he grows up. The boy cheerfully says, a lawyer. His dad looks at him, slightly crestfallen and goes on to suggest careers he believes his son can enter. Dentist. Doctor. School teacher. Principal. Finally, he suggests his son consider becoming a certified public accountant -- a CPA. Whatever a CPA was didn't sound good to that young boy.

Who was that young boy? It was me! Why did my dad see being a lawyer as beyond my dreams? He knew how the world worked (or at least at that time). Any of the careers he'd mentioned, I could do in the black community. I could earn a good living withouut being subject to the racial discrimination that existed outside of our community. Were I to become a lawyer, my dad believed that I'd face the prejudice of a world dominated by white lawyers, white judges, and white clients. It was his way of protecting me. Nevertheless, I was bound and determined that I would someday be a lawyer.

Thank God that we have made so much progress in the half century since that conversation. In those years, I have been fortunate. Son of an Air Force sergeant, I got to live in Japan, North Dakota, and New Hampshire. Upon graduating high school,  I attended the University of Notre Dame where I earned a B.A. in political science and German language and literature. Remembering that dream I'd had as a seven year old boy, I enrolled in the University of Chicago, where I would earn an M.A. in Publlic Policy Studies and the J.D. in law.

Over the next 35 years, I would serve as a judge advocate in the Air Force, an attorney with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, an attorney with the General Motors Corporation, Deputy Corporation Counsel of Wayne County, and as a partner in two Detroit-area law firms. In 1999, I would move to Grand Rapids, MI, where for the next nine years I would serve, first, as the General Counsel of Meijer, Inc., and, later, as its Executive Vice President with responsibiliity for its legal, IT, procurement, real estate, and construction operations.

Upon leaving Meijjer in 2008, I found that I had the skill and passion to serve as a University professor. I have gone on to teach at Grand Valley State University, Southern Methodist University, the University of Michigan -- Dearborn, and the University of Chicago Law School, where President Barack Obama also taught.

That young black boy has come a long way since that day in 1963. Yet, I have so much more of a journey ahead of me as I seek to earn your trust as citizens of Michigan as I seek to be your next Attorney General. With God's help, I pray that we can become one people under law, one Michigan.

 

 

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