Ritina Arrington - future Supreme Court Justice
- Ritina Arrington -WAVY TV’s Young Achiever
RITINA ARRINGTON has a big dream… to run right on through high school, college and law school, eventually to a seat on the Supreme Court. Ritina’s dreams, and accomplishments, got our attention here at WAVY TV. She excels on the track and cross country teams at Norfolk’s BOOKER T. WASHINGTON high school. And Ritina is handling her business in the classroom, and out in the community where, I understand, she makes time to volunteer. Super kid, right? We thought so too. So, Ritina is the latest “Hampton Roads Young Achiever.” It’s our way of recognizing young people who are outstanding, and provide the community with “good news.” You’ll soon see Ritina’s “spots” all over WAVY TV 10.
Back to Ritina’s dream.
Jessie Jackson once said: ”IF YOU CAN CONCEIVE IT, AND BELIEVE IT, YOU CAN ACHIEVE IT.”
I’d like to add:
“DREAM A BIG DREAM… AND SHOCK YOURSELF. MAKE THAT DREAM COME TRUE… AND SHOCK THE WORLD!”
But, should we be shocked if this soon-to-be B-T-W graduate eventually takes a seat on the Supreme Court? Afterall, the odds are long and the stumbling blocks- high. Well, the answer is NO. There’s already a precedent for a black kid from Norfolk to sit on the high bench- of the Virginia Supreme Court.
Sadly, we said goodbye to him this weekend.
Justice Leroy Roundtree Hassell 1955-2011
Leroy Roundtree Hassell was also a big dreamer while at Norfolk’s NORVIEW HIGH SCHOOL. He died Wednesday at age 55. A celebration of his life was held Saturday in Richmond just as the month-long celebration of the history he helped to make- kicks into full gear.
I didn’t know Leroy Roundtree Hassell. But I knew of him after the 30 second story crossed my desk in 2002. The headline read something like: “Black Norfolk Lawyer Elected Chief Justice of Virginia Supreme Court.” BOOM-SHA-KA-LA-KA!
Like many blacks, I still “count.” “Oh! He’s the first black- this, or the only black- that.” Each “first” representing one step forward, or one more wrong that’s been righted, or one more opportunity to prove “Yes, I can, Yes, ‘we’ can” – after generations of “no you can’t's…” I also “count” my news stories everyday- noting the number of African Americans killed and convicted of crimes. In some weeks it averages about 4 a day! Do the math.
Leroy Roundtree Hassell dreamed big dreams. Like RITINA, his mother and father encouraged him in the home. Classmates challenged him at NORVIEW HIGH. University of Virginia rewarded him with “scholar of the year” honors, and a degree in 1977. Harvard pushed him to expand his intellectual limits before conveying upon him a law degree in 1980.
A few years later, the international law firm McGuire Woods paid him, in a sense, to keep on dreaming (and documenting! In 1989, Governor Gerald Baliles called him… and then named 34 year old Leroy Roundtree Hassell to the Virginia Supreme Court. And when his fellow justices elected him “chief” – Hassell became the first black to get the top job and the first justice to ever to be elected by other members of the court. Students like Ritina could look to the state’s highest court and actually see someone who looks like her and was from her neighborhood! She could then say: “If he could do it…”
Hey, Ritina, as I’m sure your parents and mentors are teaching you, success is about more than just the books. On the passing of Leroy Roundtree Hassell. Governor Baliles said:
“I valued his friendship, his contributions to the commonwealth and the country, and respected his intergrity, intellectual depth and commitment to access to justice for all our people, regardless circumstance.”
Local attorney and WAVY NEWS 10 legal contributor Eric Moody said of Justice Hassell:
”…The Commonwealth of Virginia is well known for its propensity to maintain the status quo, and the judiciary is one of the leading examples of this tendency. Notwithstanding his position and credentials, Justice Hassell was a non-conformist in his thoughts and actions. He wrote several dissenting opinions sharply disagreeing with his colleagues on the bench. Notably an historic figure in being the “first” in a number of positions as an African American, he readily shunned that title.
Mr. Moody continues: ”To say that ‘his shoes will be hard to fill’ does a disservice to the impact and the role he has played in government and in Virginia history. His model as one who can overcome formidable obstacles with hard work and preparation, ranks with some of the great icons of our time. Young people will for many years to come hear his name associated with the power of education to allow them to reach their goals, and the impact that strength of character has on ones ability to excel.”
Hey, RITINA, I think you already know the words to that song. Keep singing, and keep running towards your goal. And even after you reach it, please keep on volunteering- making time to sing loud enough for the younger kids to hear you… Kids in schools DREAM KEEPERS ACADEMY in Norfolk, and ACHIEVABLE DREAM in Newport News- any school for that matter.
- Students at Achievable Dream School, NN
By the way, two final thoughts, RITINA: 1) You have a beautiful name that’s uniquely yours… and 2) There are two seats now open on the Virginia Supreme Court. Hmmm.