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Franklin Cleckley Papers

Collection Number: A&M 4506

Content Description

Papers of Franklin Cleckley, lawyer, judge, and professor of law in West Virginia. Appointed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in 1994 by then Governor Caperton Gaston, Cleckley was the first African-American Justice in West Virginia. Known for his prolific writing, he authored more than 100 majority opinions along with a number of concurring and dissenting opinions. Much of the collection consists of scrapbooks of newspaper clippings relating to the career of Cleckley. To a lesser extent the collection also includes correspondence and papers regarding legal cases Cleckley took part in, personal correspondence in the form of greeting and sympathy cards, as well as biographical material such as family photographs, resumes, and other material.

Record series include
Series 1. Biographical Materials
Series 2. Writings
Series 3. Correspondence
Series 4. Scrapbooks
Series 5. Printed Materials
Series 6. Audiovisual Materials
Series 7. Oversized Materials


  • Creation: ca. 1958-2017


Conditions Governing Access

No special access restriction applies.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. For more information, please see the Permissions and Copyright page on the West Virginia and Regional History Center website.

Biographical / Historical

Franklin Dorrah Cleckley was born August 1, 1940 in Newberry, South Carolina, but soon moved with his family to McDowell County, West Virginia. Cleckley received his undergraduate degree at Anderson College in Anderson, Indiana before earning a law degree at Indiana University School of Law at Bloomington in 1965. While serving three years with the United States Navy during the Vietnam War as a Judge Advocate General (JAG), he earned the repuation of being the most sought after attorney in Vietnam, according to the United States Secretary of Defense. Returning stateside, Cleckey attended Harvard University where he received his L.L.M. in 1969. He then attended Exeter University in England for post-graduate studies.

In that same year, Cleckley joined the West Virginia University College of Law, becoming the first African-American to do so. Cleckley also served as a visiting professor at a number of schools including Syracuse University, the University of Maryland, the University of Mississippi, the William & Mary Law School, Louisiana State, and Mercer University. In 1990, Cleckley established the Franklin D. Cleckley Foundation, a non-profit organization designed to provide former convicts with educational and employment opportunities.

In 1992, the Franklin D. Cleckley Symposium was created at West Virginia University, bringing distinguished members of the civil rights and African-American communities to the school as lecturers. He also authored the Evidence Handbook for West Virginia Lawyers and the West Virginia Criminal Procedure Handbook, as well as co-authoring the Ligitgation Handbook on West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure, Health Care and the Law, and Introduction to the West Virginia Criminal Justice System and Its Laws. On May 3, 1994, Governor Gaston Caperton appointed Cleckley to the West Virginia Surpreme Court of Appeals, making him the first African-American Justice in West Virginia. Justice Cleckley chose not to seek election to the Supreme Court and returned to West Virginia University in 1996.

While serving as a Justice, Cleckley authored more than 100 majority opinions, in addition to numerous concurring and dissenting opinions. He also received a myriad of awards, including the Civil Libertarian of the Year Awards from the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union, the Thurgood Marshall Award from the West Virginia NAACP, the 2011 Liberty Bell Award from the West Virginia Supreme Court, the West Virgina Common Cause Award for Public Service, the Public Citizen of the Year Award from the West Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the Neil S. Bucklew Award for Social Justice, and the West Virginia Human Rights Commission Civil Rights Award. The Justice Franklin D. Cleckley Fellowship was named and created in his honor by the West Virginia University College of Law, in conjunction with the University of Chicago Law School. The fellowship provides a two-year position with the West Virginia Innocence Project.

On August 14, 2017, Franklin D. Cleckley died at the age of 77, in Morgantown, West Virginia.

-adapted from Hastings Funeral Home obituary and


7.1 Linear Feet (7 ft. 1 in. (4 record cartons, 15 in. each); (3 document cases, 5 in. each); (3 document cases, 2 1/2 in. each); (1 flat storage box, 2 1/2 in.) )



Physical Location

West Virginia and Regional History Center / West Virginia University / 1549 University Avenue / P.O. Box 6069 / Morgantown, WV 26506-6069 / Phone: 304-293-3536 / Fax: 304-293-3981 / URL:

Franklin Cleckley Papers
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Repository Details

Part of the West Virginia and Regional History Center Repository

1549 University Ave.
P.O. Box 6069
Morgantown WV 26506-6069 US