For 37 years, Thelton Henderson was a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for Northern California. He presided over numerous high-profile cases, including his role as a receiver to oversee the quality of health care services in California’s prison system and his work to reform the Oakland Police Department through a consent decree.
Before his appointment to the bench by President Jimmy Carter, Henderson was the first African American staff attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. At Stanford University Law School, he designed and ran a successful minority recruitment program.
About six weeks before Henderson retired from the bench, he was interviewed by Lowell Bergman, the nationally known investigative reporter who has known the judge for many years. Bergman teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.
The interviews with Henderson appear here as the first in a new series, the Open California Oral History Project, funded through a grant from the California State Library.