By Barney Blakeney
The Committee On Better Racial Assurance (COBRA) February 18 honored Judge Richard E. Fields Sr. with its first ‘Drum Major for Justice Award’.
Described as a “lawyer’s lawyer and a judge’s judge”, Fields grew up in Charleston and graduated from Avery Normal School in 1940. He worked shining shoes at Eddie Lewis’ barber shop on Columbus Street while in high school and found that he could gain just as much wisdom there listening to customers.
That didn’t prevent him, however, from going on to West Virginia College (University) where he earned a B.S. Degree in Business Administration. He continued his studies at Howard University Law School and graduated in 1947. In 1949 he opened his law practice in Charleston becoming the first Black attorney to run a law firm in the city since Reconstruction.
That began a series of firsts for the success-driven barrister. In 1969 he became a Charleston Municipal Court judge and six years later became a Charleston County Family Court judge. In 1980 Fields was elected a S.C. Circuit Court judge and served until his retirement in 1992. In 2004 he became the first recipient of the local chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates’ award so named in his honor.
Fields said, “Everywhere I went there was somebody at the apex to advise me of where to go next.” He credits, among others, the late Joseph A. ‘Pop’ Moore, Gedney Howe Sr. and Henry Smith as mentors. A member of Centenary UMC, Fields is the widower of the late Myrtle Fields and has one daughter, Diane Fields-Reed and one son, Richard E. Fields Jr.