W. James Singleton
Civil Rights
, National Guard

He was born in Frierson, Louisiana, to Sally Singleton. That was also the name of his great-grandmother, who, with his great-grandfather, raised him and two cousins "like brothers and sisters," as he recalls. Willie began life on a cotton farm where both great-grandparents worked in the fields. Shortly before his great-grandfather died, he purchased a few acres of land where Willie lived. His great-grandmother struggled financially to raise the children. "She understood the value of a penny," he says of her and her small salary of $77 a month. To help the family Willie worked at several chores, including picking cotton, and repaired and sold bicycles. Meanwhile, he earned perfect attendance in school through 12 years. "That cotton patch motivated me more than anything else," he comments about his desire to learn. Willie graduated from Second Ward High School at age 16. He completed Southern University in Baton Rouge in three years, and finished law school in three years as well. While going to school he worked at Globe Shopping Center. Willie entered the Louisiana National Guard after law school, and was trained as an infantryman. In 1974, he was the first African-American to run for mayor of Shreveport. In 1976 he was elected to Caddo Parish Police Jury, where he served for seven years. He then won a seat in the state legislature and served 12 years. Meanwhile, in his law practice, he specialized in class-action cases. In a suit against a major tobacco company his law firm won $591 million. He chaired the judiciary committee in the legislature and increased the number of black judges in the state from six to 80. On November 22, 1990 he married Jacqueline Hurst. He has three children and one grandchild.