A petition drive got under way Friday to rename the Erie County Family Court building in honor of late State Supreme Court Justice Vincent E. Doyle Jr.
The Western New York Coalition of Blacks in the Courts launched the effort during the 17th annual courthouse celebration of the late Martin Luther King Jr. The petitions will be presented to the Erie County Legislature.
City Court Judge James A.W. McLeod, master of ceremonies for the celebration and a founding member of the coalition, recalled how Doyle, who died Oct. 3, was instrumental in forcing the county to build the $33 million, seven-story Family Court facility and modernize downtown courthouses about six years ago.
McLeod also noted that Doyle's decision in 1974 to hire him as a lawyer in his law firm marked only the second time a minority had been hired by a major local law firm.
Doyle's belief in equality was so strong that he quit a local social and athletic club when it refused to allow a minority into its membership, McLeod noted.
The judge truly "lived Martin Luther King's dream of equal opportunity for all and was ready, willing and able to promote that and open the doors of opportunity for all," he added.
The coalition honored Doyle in the presence of his widow, Joan, and his three sons -- also lawyers -- and a daughter, during the noon ceremony in the second-floor ceremonial courtroom of Erie County Hall
State Supreme Court Justice Rose H. Sconiers and Erie County Judge Shirley Troutman also praised Doyle -- for eight years, serving as Western New York's top administrative judge -- for opening legal career opportunities for minorities and pressing for more minorities on juries.
Sconiers said Doyle -- known by colleagues as "the Happy Warrior" -- worked his entire life to promote equal opportunity in the local court system.
Buffalo Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson, the city's first black police chief, said it is up to the courts to deal with "the horrific spate" of robberies and homicides plaguing Buffalo and other cities -- the "island of poverty" King sought to eliminate as part of his "deeply rooted" vision of a color-free society.
Musical selections were performed by 12 musicians from Buffalo's Muhammad School of Music, under the direction of founder Henri Muhammad.