Anne-Marie Clarke, currently family court commissioner of the St. Louis Circuit Court, has been a trailblazer throughout her career. Among many other roles, she was the first black woman to serve on the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners.
What are some of your proudest career accomplishments? I was nominated to serve on the Board of Police Commissioners for the City of St. Louis by Sen. Jet Banks and appointed by Gov. Mel Carnahan in April 1993. While it was never something I had on my Life’s “To Do” List, I was honored to be appointed and I set about trying to learn as much as I could about the police department and my role as a commissioner. A year later, the office of president of the board was open and I decided that I would run. There had never been a woman president. I sought the support of my commissioners and the mayor. I was elected unanimously and served until my resignation in 1998 when I was appointed family court commissioner.
I was proud to start W-PON (Women Police Officers Network) which was the first support group for female officers. The first woman captain and major were appointed during my tenure. I was an active and visible board member. I am very proud of my service.
What inspired you to get involved in the justice system? I grew up with wonderful legal role models. Margaret Bush Wilson was a law school classmate of my father at the Lincoln University Law School which was created because of the Supreme Court decision of Missouri ex rel. Lloyd Gaines v. Canada. I started practicing law with her after graduating from law school. She taught me that graciousness and lawyering weren’t contradictions. I knew Frankie Muse Freeman most of my life as she and my mother were both Virginians and members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Many of this community’s Legal Legends such as David M. Grant, Clyde Cahill, Theodore McMillian, William P. Russell, Curtis C. Crawford and Joseph McDuffie, were family friends. At Mound City Bar family gatherings, the lawyers talked “shop” and we children listened. Even as a young child, I knew that their work was work I wanted to pursue. Judge McMillian, the first black circuit judge, was always held in high esteem. Because everyone knew I wanted to be a lawyer, I was always encouraged to be a judge “like Ted.”
What has been your favorite part of the job? Every day, I have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. Whether it’s a teenager who has made bad choices or a parent who isn’t certain what choice to make, I can influence outcomes. I never take lightly the tremendous responsibility I have been entrusted. I must do the right thing.
What is something that would surprise people about you? I’m a very good craps player!
As part of the STL250 celebration, I visited and photographed all 256 cakes. And my husband gifted me with the cake that was in Fountain Park at the Dr. King statue.
What is the best advice you’ve ever given or received? Margaret Bush Wilson told me to always wear a hat to court! When I started practicing, I did. People did notice “that lady” in the hat (I had different colors and styles).
Advice I got from my father which I give to students I speak to: You can work for four and play for forty or you can play for four and work for forty. Think about that.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be? I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I decided at 9 years old that I would attend Rosati-Kain High School because my father said it was a school for smart girls. And, at 9, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer like my father. My mom was a registered nurse and the supervisor of the nursery at Homer G. Phillips Hospital. My dad had a general law practice. Over dinner every night, my parents talked about their day. My father’s experiences always sounded better! I started college the same month I graduated high school. I received my bachelor’s degree in three years because I was in a rush to get to law school.