Funeral services for retired Municipal Court Judge Ronald B. Merriweather, one of the city’s most respected jurists and civic leaders, were held last week at First African Baptist Church in Sharon Hill, PA.
Judge Merriweather, 74, died June 24, 2010 following a long battle with cancer. A track star in high school and college and an accomplished soldier and law enforcement official. Judge Merriweather had amassed an impressive record of service for many years before he was elected to the bench a generation ago, a fact that was resoundingly manifested by the huge number of mourners and friends who attended the homegoing service last Tuesday at First African Church.
Ronald, affectionately known as “Ron” or “Judge”, accepted Christ at an early age and was baptized at Mt. Cannel Baptist Church. He was educated in the School District of Philadelphia and graduated from West Philadelphia High School in 1956. Merriweather was initiated into the Alpha Phi Beta, a high school fraternity which is a Kappa Alpha Psi Guide Right Program. He was most proud of being a member of the 1955 Cross Country Team where Merriweather and three teammates swept the first four places in the Public League Championship race. This was an unprecedented feat that has yet to be duplicated. He was also a member of the record setting Speed Boys Two Mile Relay Team. His passion for track and field was evidenced by his attendance each year at the Annual Penn Relays.
Ron attended his beloved alma mater, Morgan State University (Class of 1960) from which he was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. At Morgan, he continued to demonstrate scholarship, leadership and athleticism. He ran a leg on the victorious Morgan freshman one-mile relay team at the 1957 Penn Relays. Elected in 1960 by his peers to serve as Student Government President, Ron organized and led a successful sit-in and picket demonstration for equal treatment for all in Baltimore. Widely recognized as an outstanding ROTC cadet, he was selected for installation as a member of the National Association of Pershing Rifles. On the occasion of his graduation, Morgan bestowed upon him its prestigious Second Mile Award for Leadership, While at Morgan State University, Ron pledged Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. (Alpha Iota Chapter) and served as the Dean of Pledges. On the same day, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.
After completing Infantry Officer’s Training, he successfully completed both Airborne and Ranger training. From 1960 to 1962, as an Airborne Ranger Infantry Officer and was discharged as a First Lieutenant. During his service, he was a medal winner for the Fourth United States Army Track Team.
After his military separation, Ron was employed as a United States Treasury Agent from 1962 through 1965. He then served as a Special Agent in the United States Secret Service from 1965 through 1968. He was among the first African- Americans to serve at each agency. Ron was awarded the United States Secretary of Treasury Award for Outstanding Service in 1966. In 1967 Ron married Anita Minter in Cleveland, OH. They remained married for fourteen years and divorced in 1981.
While a Secret Service Agent, Merriweather was detailed to a Kenyan Presidential Mission which included Vice-President Hubert Humphrey and Supreme Court Associate, Justice Thurgood Marshall. While on the Mission, Ron spoke privately to Justice Marshall. During their conversation, Justice Marshall suggested he consider a career in law because as a lawyer he could make a significant contribution to society. The words of Justice Marshall resonated with him although he continued his duties as a Secret Service Agent. One of his last assignments as a Secret Service Agent occurred in 1968 after the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The morning after Kennedy’s death, Ron was detailed to protect the life of then Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy.
In 1968, he took Justice Marshall’s words to heart and decided to pursue a legal education. Ron was admitted into the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) Law School; a law school that had graduated fewer than 10 African-Americans in its then nineteen year history. At UCLA, he served as a Student Government Representative in 1968 and 1969. Ron became a member of Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity and the Black Law Students Association. He was awarded the Juris Doctor degree in June 1971.
After law school, Merriweather was employed in the Los Angeles Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1973 and served as a trial attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1973 to 1976. He was in private practice in the City of Philadelphia from 1976 to 1984. During this time, Ricky Johns became his administrative assistant and remained in this capacity until his retirement from the bench.
In 1984, he was sworn in and commissioned as a judge of the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Ron was admired and held in high regard by many. Over a 25 year tenure, he sat in every division of Municipal Court. One of his most memorable sayings to defendants was “If you come before me again, Bring your Sneakers and Tooth Brush” as he held them up to show them. Upon his retirement in 2008, Ron served as a Supervising Judge in the Criminal Division. He mentored many lawyers including some who presently serve on the bench.
Judge Merriweather was a member of the following Masonic Houses: Past Master, Holmesburg Lodge #137, King Hiram Chapter #2, Holy Royal Arch Masons, Progress Council #2, Royal and Select Masters, Demolay Consistory #1, and Pyramid Temple # 1, 33rd Degree, Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. He was an active and dedicated member of each Masonic House as well as the Creation Unit at Pyramid Temple. He was recognized for his active participation in the ritualistic work of Free Masonry.
Judge Merriweather was a District Commander with the Boy Scouts, a Life Member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Bar Association Judicial Council – Clifford Scott Green Chapter and Life Member of the Morgan State University National Alumni Association. He was also a proud life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Ron received the MSU Philadelphia Chapter Achievement Award in 1984, Philadelphia Alumni Chapter Humanitarian Award in 1988, and he continued to be active in the Philadelphia Alumni Chapter. Ron was the recipient of numerous other awards.
Ron was accomplished in many fields of human endeavor, however, the essence of Ronald Bernard Merriweather was displayed in his daily actions. He was kind, caring, honest and fair. His selflessness is captured best by the almost daily visitwith his parents at Stapeley in Germantown. On the rare occasion that he was out of town, to comfort himself, he would coordinate with his brother and nephews to make sure his parents were visited in his absence. Ron was also a mentor to youthin his family and community, and proved a strong champion for empowering those he mentored by helping them achieve their highest potential and tapping into the power within. He was a loyal friend and confidant; his commitment and loyalty to his friends could only be mirrored by his commitment to remain meticulously well dressed. His loyalty to the Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia 76ers was evidenced by being a loyal season ticket holder.
He lives forever in the hearts of those who loved him dearly: his mother, Mildred Merriweather; his brother, Charles D. “Chuck” Merriweather Jr,, and his fiance, Francine Crump; two nephews, Chad (Chisa) and Jason Merriweather; specialfriend, Charlita A. Latham-Martin; god-daughter, Amira Monet Martin; best friend, Robert Ridley; two great nephews, Chad and Chase Merriweather; and a host of other relatives and friends.