Hoosier Memory Makers recognizes Judge Tanya Walton-Pratt for Black History Month

Walton-Pratt is Indiana's 1st black federal judge

INDIANAPOLIS - Although Judge Tanya Walton-Pratt serves on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and holds many distinguished awards, she remains humbled as a servant to the people who helped her reach her goals.

"I've been blessed to lead and to have the opportunity to lead," Judge Walton-Pratt said.

Born in Indianapolis, Walton-Pratt graduated from Cathedral High School. She then received an undergraduate degree from Spelman College before earning a law degree from Howard University.

Her nomination and confirmation to become a federal judge followed nearly three decades of experience as a hard-working attorney and jurist.

Walton-Pratt is among four Hoosier women to ever serve as a federal judge in Indiana. She is also the first African-American in state history to fill the post.

"When I was elevated to this position and nominated by the President of the United States, it was a big deal. I was very honored and humbled by the fact. Me being the first African-American judge, I respect the historical significance of that fact because being the first of anything (opens the door) for future generations," she said.

In her first two years on the federal bench, Walton-Pratt has judged a number of high-profile cases. She spends hours working on her rulings knowing that some could go before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals for review. 

"The ultimate decision is mine and some decisions do weigh heavily. I do the best I can," she said. "If I make a mistake or if I rule wrong, I'm glad that my decision is reversed. It gives you a sense of comfort."

Walton-Pratt values her decisions as well as her family. She attributes her success to her mother who was a kindergarten teacher and her father who was a lawyer. Mr. Charles Walton passed away before he could see his daughter win her first election as Marion County Superior Court Judge.

"My family comes first. I make sure that I balance life. It's important to have a balanced life," she said.

In Walton-Pratt's courtroom, history and humbleness preside.

"It makes you appreciate more of who you are when you look at what your ancestors had to deal with. My husband and I always tell my daughter 'If at first you don't succeed try, try again. If it doesn't kill you, it's only going to help you.' The disappointment and the rejection are part of life. You will have experiences when you don't get what you want. Anything is possible. I truly believe that," she said.

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