Judge Robert Wilkins of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will be returning to his home state of Indiana to deliver the 7th Annual Birch Bayh Lecture at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
The event, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Inlow Hall. One hour of continuing legal education credit is available with required registration.
Wilkins’ speech, “Long Road to Hard Truth: The 100-Year Mission to Create the National Museum of African American History and Culture,” will reflect on the new museum in devoted exclusively to the documentation of African-American life, history and culture. Opening Sept. 24, 2016, the museum has more than 36,000 artifacts and a membership of nearly 100,000 individuals.
A Muncie native who once served sandwiches and French fries at the local Rax Restaurant, Wilkins played a key role in the establishment of the museum. He served as chairman of the presidential commission’s site and building committee whose work led to the congressional authorization of the museum and the selection of its location on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Wilkins earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He then clerked for Judge Earl Gilliam of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. After that, he worked briefly for the Muncie firm of DeFur Voran before joining the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.
In 1992, after a traffic stop where he and his relatives were targeted because of their race, Wilkins filed a lawsuit to hold the police accountable. The case, Wilkins et al. v. State of Maryland, became a landmark civil-rights lawsuit that inspired nationwide legislative and executive reform of police stop-and-search practices.
Wilkins was appointed to the federal bench on Jan. 15, 2014.
The Birch Bayh Lecture was established at IU McKinney in honor of former U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh. Made possible through contributions from the Simon Property Group and the Friends of Birch Bayh, the lecture series focuses on issues of importance to Bayh throughout his career in government.