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ICON Awards 2021: Reuben Shelton, Monsanto

Reuben Shelton jokes that he got into his profession because he wanted to have an impact on the world and the best way to do it was to either be an attorney or a religious figure.

“If you look at most of the major turning points in our society, it is always because of lawyers or preachers,” he noted.

His thoughts on lawyers and preachers may be a little bit tongue-in-cheek but not his desire to make a difference. Originally, he thought he’d pursue a career as a professional basketball player but ended up graduating from Saint Louis University Law School hoping to become a public interest or civil rights attorney. For a time, he worked with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and served on its board for many years.

After clerking for a U.S. District judge and doing commercial litigation work at the forerunner for Husch Blackwell, he went on to work in-house at Union Electric (now Ameren) before moving on to a lead litigation position at corporate giant Monsanto.

Along the way, he also did vital work with Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon to bring about an historic and groundbreaking $6.7 billion settlement with tobacco companies. In addition, he went on to head the Missouri Bar Association, becoming only the second African-American to become the organization’s president and the first to do so at the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis.

Shelton has been named among ten outstanding St. Louisans by the Junior Chamber of Commerce and one of the hundred most inspiring St. Louisans by the NAACP. He was honored in 2008 and 2009 as one of the best corporate in-house lawyers in the state by Missouri Lawyers Weekly.

Shelton is a past regional director of the National Bar Association and chaired the American Bar Association’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity. He also served for a time as president of the Mound City Bar Association.

Today, the 66-year-old native St. Louisan is retired and stresses that his proudest accomplishment is his family. Still, he can look back on an impressive career of meaningful work that truly mattered.

“I wanted to make an impact,” he said. “I wanted to make a difference. I know that sounds sort of corny or kooky, but it really was [what I wanted]. I just couldn’t see myself going through life without leaving some sort of impact or some sort of legacy for my kids.”

ICON Awards 2021