Franklin Dorrah Cleckley

Obituary of Franklin Dorrah Cleckley

Justice Franklin D. Cleckley, 77, of Morgantown, passed away Monday, August 14, 2017 at his residence. He was born August 1, 1940 in Newberry, SC.

He was active member of the Morgantown Church of God. He received his undergraduate degree at Anderson College in Anderson, Ind., and his law degree from Indiana University School of Law at Bloomington in 1965. He served three years as a Navy JAG officer then attended Harvard University, where he received his L.L.M. in 1969, before pursuing post-graduate studies at Exeter University in England. He joined the faculty at the West Virginia University College of Law in 1969. In 1990, he established the Franklin D. Cleckley Foundation, a non-profit organization designed to help give former convicts educational and employment opportunities.

In 1992, the Franklin D. Cleckley Symposium was established at West Virginia University to bring distinguished members of the civil rights and African-American communities to the campus as lecturers. He was the author of the Evidence Handbook for West Virginia Lawyers and the West Virginia Criminal Procedure Handbook.

On May 3, 1994, former Governor Gaston Caperton appointed him to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, making him the first African-American Justice in West Virginia.

Justice Cleckley chose not to seek election to the Supreme Court and instead returned to the College of Law at the end of 1996.

During his time as a Justice, he authored more than 100 majority opinions in addition to concurring and dissenting opinions.

He received many awards himself, including the 2011 Liberty Bell Award from the West Virginia Supreme Court, the Civil Libertarian of the Year Award from the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union, the Thurgood Marshall Award from the West Virginia NAACP, the West Virginia Common Cause Award for Public Service, the Public Citizen of the Year Award from the West Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and the West Virginia Human Rights Commission Civil Rights Award.

He is survived by his children, Shannon L. Cleckley and his wife Julie A. Cleckley of Anderson, IN, Nicole Cleckley of Boston, MA, and Luke Wallace Cleckley of Washington, D.C.; grandchildren, Jordan, Sydni, Whitni, Holly, Ryan, and Leo Cleckley; and several siblings, Dr. Betty Cleckley, Ellen Nichols, Virginia Wood, Ivery Wood, and Ivan Davis.

He was preceded in death by his grandmother, Rev. Ellen Cleckley and his mother, Vivian Wood.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to help aide the WV Innocence Project. Please make checks payable to the WVU Foundation, Memo: Cleckley Fellowship. Mail checks to the WVU College of Law, Attn: Stenja McVicker, PO Box 6130, Morgantown, WV 26506.

Friends and family will be received for a memorial service at the WVU Creative Arts Center Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre on Sunday, September 24th at 2:00 PM.