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Toledo Legal News - News Son of a Coal Miner becomes Councilman, Asst Prosecutor, Municipal Court Judge


photo of Judge C. Allen McConnellSon of a Coal Miner becomes Councilman, Asst Prosecutor, Municipal Court Judge

By Michael Davisson, Toledo Legal News

C. Allen McConnell reclines back in his chair and surveys his wood paneled office. He has the contented smile of a man who has, in every sense of the term, made it. An educated, community focused man with a loving wife, two happy children (successful in their own rights), a job he is passionate about and time enough to play a game of golf now and then, Judge McConnell has come a long way from being raised in a company town in West Virginia where his father and brothers mined coal.

Judge McConnell's father moved his family to West Virginia in search of work a year before he was born. “My father was a minister and a coal miner. He moved to West Virginia because work was available. There was no discrimination there. If you wanted to go down the mine you could. It didn't matter what you looked like.”

The youngest son of a family with seven children, Judge McConnell grew up in West Virginia until his family moved to White Plains, New York when he was 14. He attended high school in New York and earned money working as golf caddie and stock boy at a grocery store.

When it came time for Judge McConnell to attend college, he chose Bluefield State College in West Virginia. “Neither of my folks had beyond a sixth grade education and three of my brothers followed my father into the coal mines. My parents did not want that for me. So they pushed me academically. And since they still owned land in West Virginia and my brothers were still living there, it only made sense for me to go to school back in West Virginia.”

Despite his desire to go into law, McConnell began his college education majoring in business with plans to teach after graduating. “My plans were to go to law school but during that era, as an African-American, you needed to find a place where you could get a job. And what were readily available were teaching positions.”

While the Judge's decision to major in business would impact his future, something even more important happened to him on his first day at Bluefield's campus. While finding his way around the unfamiliar residence halls and classrooms, the young Allen McConnell first laid eyes on a woman named Tempie, his wife-to-be. “She decided that I was not the kind of guy she wanted to get married to, but I changed her mind about that.”

When they graduated, Judge McConnell began looking into law schools while his wife set about looking for teaching jobs. “My wife started writing every city in the Midwest for a job. Toledo answered first, they needed a business teacher at Woodward High School. So I scraped law school and got on the next plane and accepted that job. If Columbus had answered first, I probably would have ended up there.”

Now settled in Toledo, Judge McConnell began teaching business in 1966 and stayed with it through 1968. “Those two years were one of my greatest experiences, teaching young people and trying to help them find their way in life was very rewarding.” However, as the 1960's came to a close, Judge McConnell finally felt financially secure enough to being attending the University of Toledo's Law School. His wife was working as an educator and he got a job as a financial administrator at an oil company which, “was a good job for the times, it got me through law school.”

After obtaining his J.D. in 1972, McConnell began working as an Assistant Lucas County Prosecutor, a position he held until 1979 when he decided to focus all of his energies on private practice.

As much as the Judge enjoyed his legal practice, he found another outlet for his energies in the form of local politics. “I became a city council member in 1995, which was an extension of my interest in law. It was the development of the Civil Rights Movement that made sparked my interest in law. I protested a little in college and I realized that someone had to know what the law was and how it operated and what could and could not be done. So as an attorney I knew about a lot of the complaints in the community and I had pursued the city council to change certain things. Eventually I felt it would be easier to get things done on the other side of the table.”

Although he left the council in 1999, Judge McConnell stayed active in the community, mostly through his church, the First Church of God. “The Church and I have been involved in a multitude of community projects. Some have been very successful, others have not. Everything we have undertaken has been to help people bring about a better lifestyle.”

In 2001 Judge McConnell was approached about running for the Municipal seat left empty when Judge Weir retired. Seizing the opportunity, McConnell ran and won. He was re-elected in 2005.

“My passion as a judge is housing. The situation that I'm seeing in Toledo is at an all time low. It's amazing to me. When I grew up in West Virginia, the housing was all provided for the mine workers, so to be in Toledo where the elderly are being charged criminally for not being able to afford repairs is horrible. We're not giving up though, we're doing what we can to help people. I'm passionate about this because I believe what Luke said in the Bible is true: To whom much is given, much is required.”

By Michael Davisson, Toledo Legal News

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