Judge Everett Mitchell was sworn in as a circuit court judge at the Dane County Courthouse July 22. Mitchell was sworn in by Judge Paul Higginbotham, the first African-American judge elected to office in Dane County.
Rev. Mitchell, a well-known advocate for racial justice in Madison, has become the third African-American judge in the Dane County Circuit. Higginbotham, now a state appellate judge, was appointed Madison Municipal Judge in 1992 and elected circuit judge in 1994. Gov. Jim Doyle appointed City Attorney James Martin to the circuit bench in 2003. He was elected in 2004 and retired in 2009.
“I’m amazed. I am humbled. Where I come from …. This didn’t even seem like a possibility,” Mitchell told a crowd that gathered for him at a reception following the investiture. “When I first started this whole journey, it was amazing the number of people who said, ‘you can’t do it. You don’t have enough money … you don’t have enough experience, people won’t support you, you’re just too young. Go do something else.’
“Every time somebody said that to me, it was almost like the haters motivated me to say, ‘You know what? Maybe it is time for younger people. Dr. King was only 39, and he changed the world!’” Mitchell added.
Mitchell graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School where he received the Advanced Opportunities Fellowship as well as the Wisconsin Black Lawyers Award. Mitchell was a member of the UW-Madison Law Review and a Law School Mock Trial Team Member. He was also an academic math lead in the People Program.
Since 2011, Mitchell has been the senior pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Madison, a congregation of more than 400 members. The former assistant Dane County District Attorney, Mitchell was most recently the director of community relations for the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he was responsible for $350,000 investment in South Madison “the Partnership” office space that engages University and Community Partnerships.
Mitchell told the crowd at the reception that he doesn’t want to keep standing as the exception in the community.
“This is the norm … that when our children continue to grow that they are not having to find exceptions if they walk around with the normality of educated, talented, smart young men and women who are doing their thing all over the place whether it’s in the judicial system, businesses, non-profits and whether or not they choose to be good fathers and mothers to their children and to demonstrate that it is all possible because we have the ability to do so,” he said.
Mitchell said that this was not a celebration for him, but for everybody. “When I came to this community, I was a 26-year-old who didn’t know much about myself, but you all have nurtured me,” Mitchell said. “Every conversation, every friendship, every prayer, every invitation, and every opportunity to tell my story has enriched me and helped me to grow up to be a better person. So, when I sit on that bench in a couple of weeks, it’s really an opportunity to sit with all of y’all and all of the lessons that you have taught me.”
Mitchell gave thanks to all those who came before him.
“I didn’t do this myself. I stand on the shoulders of others and in the shadows of greatness all the time,” he said. “I appreciate the privilege to receive your love and support. I ask you this one thing: Help me remember where I come from.”