Alumni of the Year Award
The Honorable James A. Wynn, Jr., Law ’79
Confirmed by unanimous voice vote of the U.S. Senate in 2010 to serve as a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, Jim - also a Marquette University trustee - has been a noble advocate for fair and impartial courts, equal access to justice, and the Law School.
Jim grew up in the rural North Carolina community of Robersonville. After earning his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in three years, he worked for a year supervising a Volunteers in Service to America project in Pitt County, North Carolina, seeking to help the needs of the underserved.
Long encouraged to study to become a lawyer, Jim chose to attend Marquette Law School, with scholarship support. While the Wisconsin winters were a bit harsh for the lifelong Southerner, Jim says his Marquette experience was God's will. "It taught me the value of perseverance and self-belief in the face of normative evaluators," he says. "I gained lifelong friends and an abiding endearment to the Marquette mission founded upon Jesuit principles."
After law school, Jim served in the U.S. Navy JAG Corps on active duty for four years followed by 26 years in the reserves. He was Commanding Officer of several law units including the Navy Reserve Military Trial Judge Unit. He retired at the rank of Navy Captain with numerous military awards. Jim was a litigator in an eastern North Carolina law firm before becoming a judge in 1990, first on the North Carolina Court of Appeals and then in 1998 on the state Supreme Court. While serving on the appeals court, he earned a master of laws in judicial process from the University of Virginia Law School.
Jim cites former Law School Dean Robert Boden as a supportive mentor and inspiration and has remained actively engaged with Marquette, returning to serve on reunion committees ("He is often the hit of the gathering," says classmate and friend Daniel Dennehy, Law '79), working closely with Deans Eisenberg and Kearney to enhance the quality of the Law School program, giving lectures and judging student moot court competitions, and speaking at the 2005 Commencement. He became a trustee in 2013.
Fun fact: Jim's favorite book is Long Walk to Freedom, the autobiography of Nelson Mandela. A book he recommends for young lawyers is Simple Justice, a historical perspective on Brown v. Board of Education.