Wisconsin lost one of the state’s most dedicated civil servants recently with the death of former governor and U.S. District Judge John W. Reynolds.
Reynolds died Jan. 6 from complications of heart disease. Living to the age of 80, Reynolds was the only person to act as Wisconsin governor, attorney general and federal judge in his lifetime.
Reynolds served as governor from 1963 to 1965. At the end of his gubernatorial term, Reynolds was appointed federal judge for the eastern district of Wisconsin, based in Milwaukee. He served as the chief federal justice for 15 years.
While governor, Reynolds established the state’s first Women’s Commission and Arts Council. He also served the state as attorney general from 1959 to 1963.
In 1976, Reynolds, a known civil-rights activist, ordered the decision that forced the Milwaukee school district to desegregate. The ruling resulted in school busing of minority students in Milwaukee to outlying districts.
In a news release, Linda Honold, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said Reynolds was a pillar of the democratic community.
“As one of the founders of the modern Democratic Party in Wisconsin, John Reynolds was, in part, one of the key players responsible for bringing back progressive ideals and structural organization that makes the Democratic Party of Wisconsin what it is today,” Honold said.
Reynolds is credited with modernizing the Democratic Party in Wisconsin’s structure.
“As Judge Reynolds came from a progressive background, he helped forge the importance that progressive youth play in the Democratic Party,” Honold said.
Through his service to the party, to the State and to the Federal Judiciary, Honold said Reynolds was an outstanding example of what it means to be a public servant.
Gov. Scott McCallum said in a news release he was saddened by Reynolds’ death.
“The fact that he served Wisconsin citizens as attorney general, governor and federal judge shows not only the breadth of his skills but also the depth of his commitment to public service,” McCallum said. “He will certainly be missed.”
Attorney General James Doyle said in a news release he would also miss Reynolds.
“Wisconsin has lost one of its greatest citizens,” Doyle said. “Like many others, I have lost a wonderful friend and mentor. John Reynolds’ public career as attorney general, governor and federal judge was marked by the highest integrity, courage and accomplishment. I will miss him and his kind humor and caring friendship.”