Commission Helps Honor Newton Minow Through Video 

Newton Minow videoLast summer, the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism joined forces with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library (ALPL) and the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law to document the life of Newton Minow on film. A man known for his work in the law and the field of communications and media. 

Newton Minow is an attorney who served as the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under President John F. Kennedy. He is most commonly known for coining the term “vast wasteland”, which was used to describe the lack of morality present in television in the 1960’s.  

At the FCC, Minow was instrumental in developing the All-Channel Receiver Act which led to the creation of nonprofit education television stations like PBS. He also onboarded the United States to begin working with satellite communication. 

When he wasn’t serving the FCC, Newton spent a significant amount of his professional career in Chicago, beginning at Northwestern University for law school. From there, he went on to serve as a law clerk to Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson of the U.S. Supreme Court and as the assistant counsel to Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson. Newton Minow also practiced law for a number of years at law firm Sidley Austin here in Chicago. 

“It was imperative that we sat down with Newton Minow for our Lawyer History project,” said Executive Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, Jayne Reardon.  

Newton Minow’s mission to serve the public interest is one that lies at the heart of the legal profession. He was an exemplary professional that lived and breathed civility. As an organization that works to promote professionalism in the legal profession, Newton Minow’s story needed to be shared.

Over the last several years, the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism has used video to highlight the work of some of the legal profession’s leading movers and shakers through our Lawyer History Project. Since the inception of the project, we have sat down with a wide array of justices, judges, and lawyers across the state.  

For example, the late Justice Thomas Fitzgerald shared with us the importance of civility and professionalism. Tom Sullivan shared his experience working on cases surrounding Guantanamo Bay and Operation Greylord. The first female Illinois Supreme Justice and Chief Justice, Justice Mary Ann McMorrow share her story as a pioneer for women in the legal profession. Recently retired, Judge Ann Claire Williams has also shared her story as the first African American woman appointed to the district court in Illinois and in the Seventh Circuit. The list goes on and on. 

Like Newton Minow, and all of the other legal professionals we have shined a spotlight on over the years, their stories serve as a source of inspiration to all. We hope you enjoy his story.

Oral History with Newton Minow Part 1

Oral History with Newton Minow Part 2

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