State Bar of Michigan to honor Percy J. Langster, the nation’s first elected Black prosecuting attorney
IDLEWILD, Mich. — The State Bar of Michigan has named Percy J. Langster the 44th Michigan Legal Milestone. Langster served as Lake County prosecutor from 1949-1950 and was the first Black person elected as a prosecuting attorney in the United States.
A bronze plaque commemorating Langster’s life and legacy will be unveiled during the Michigan Legal Milestone celebration 2-5 p.m. Friday, August 25, 2023, at Yates Township Hall in Lake County with the program at 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but advance registration at michbar.org/milestones is required.
Langster (1889-1954) was one of two attorneys in Lake County when he challenged incumbent Dic I. Cooper — the county’s other attorney — in a contentious race that saw Langster win the support of the incumbent sheriff and a majority of county candidates excluded from the ballot.
As home to Idlewild, Lake County had a significant Black population, but white voters still outnumbered Black voters 3 to 1 when Langster was elected. At the time, Idlewild was the largest Black summer resort community in the nation and some of those vacation-goers became year-round residents. Idlewild was made famous again by the 2006 movie of the same name.
“I am so proud that Percy Langster will forever be memorialized through this Michigan Legal Milestone recognition. His courage and perseverance allowed him to challenge both direct and institutional racism. As the elected prosecutor for Lake County, he committed himself to delivering equal justice within a system which overtly marginalized Black citizens. All of us who have in some way taken on the task of making our society more fair and just owe Percy Langster a tremendous debt of gratitude.
Learn more about Percy Langster in the August issue of the Michigan Bar Journal.
Hon. Jacquelyn A. McClinton, chair of the Michigan Legal Milestones Committee, will serve as emcee for the event. Other speakers include President Heath; Ronald J. Stephens, professor of African American studies at Purdue University and Idlewild historian; and author Nancy Vogl, who nominated Langster for Michigan Legal Milestones recognition.
Michigan Legal Milestones are adopted by the State Bar of Michigan Board of Commissioners upon recommendation from a committee of volunteer attorneys. Milestones recognize significant people and legal cases in Michigan history. Bronze plaques are dedicated and placed in local communities to commemorate the significance of each Michigan Legal Milestone.
After the plaque is unveiled, it will be permanently installed at the Lake County Courthouse in Baldwin.
Yates Township Hall is located at 6437 S. Nelson Road, about 4 miles east of Baldwin.
Posted July 27, 2023