Civil Rights Attorney, Alton H. Maddox, Jr., passed away on Sunday, April 23, 2023, at approximately 9:30 AM at the age of 77. His lengthy legal career was marked with fighting for the Black community in New York City, where he took on widely publicized cases, often battling the system at large. Maddox was considered a Freedom Fighter, who helmed groundbreaking, controversial cases including:
• Representing family of Michael Stewart (Brooklyn man who died while in custody of NYC Transit police following his arrest for writing graffiti on a New York City subway wall). Six officers were indicted for the death and then found not guilty. Stewart’s family filed a $40 million civil suit against the police and later settled out of court.
• Attorney for Cedric Sandiford and family of manslaughter victim, Michael Griffith. Griffith and Sandiford were victims of a racially motivated attack in Howard Beach, Queens. Griffith died. Maddox and other lawyers demanded a special prosecutor be appointed to the case, and the request was eventually granted. Maddox accused NYPD and Commissioner Benjamin Ward of coverup.
• Represented 15-year-old Tawana Brawley, who accused four white men of raping her, including police officers and a prosecuting attorney. Maddox, Al Sharpton, and C. Vernon Mason accused Assistant District Attorney Steven Pagones of abducting and raping Brawley. A grand jury did not charge Pagones.
• Represented Reverend Al Sharpton who faced a 67-count indictment for alleged fraud and theft. Al Sharpton was acquitted of all charges.
Maddox is a former Director of the National Conference of Black Lawyers Juvenile Defense Project. He is also the founder of the Center for Law & Social Justice at Medgar Evers College and co-sponsored the 1983 Congressional hearings on Police Brutality in New York City. A 2006 resolution passed by the Council of the City of New York supported Maddox’s reinstatement, but New York State Attorney’s office has not acted on this request.
Maddox often contributed to publications such as the Amsterdam News and was a frequent guest on WLIB radio’s Sharp Talk program, hosted by Sharpton. He has also given speeches at several colleges and rallies. His 1995 speech prior to the Million Man March was criticized by commentators and the Anti-Defamation League for its support of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan quote characterizing Jews as “bloodsuckers.”
I met and got to know Alton Maddox, Jr., when Steven A. Pagones, a former Dutchess County assistant district attorney filed a lawsuit against Al Sharpton, Maddox, and C. Vernon Mason alleging defamation of character starting November 18, 1997, and lasting until July 13, 1998. I rode the bus to Poughkeepsie almost every day from the Bronx covering the case for Brooklyn-based Daily Challenge Newspaper (New York’s only Black daily newspaper). It was one of my first real clashes with blatant racism, as they did not want us up there and tried everything to discourage us from coming there including arresting some for jaywalking and stopping the bus on the way back to the city delaying our trip home by hours in some circumstances.
Maddox rode the bus with us so there was plenty of time for me to pick his brain and get to know him as well as get the quotes I needed to cover what happened that day in court. he knew I was new to covering cases like this. Maddox spent a lot of time explaining the legalese of the case to me, so I could properly articulate the day in court in my articles. Michael Hardy who represented Al Sharpton also spent a lot of time with me, but Maddox almost made it his mission to teach me, mentor me and what I did not know them, he was grooming a future activist in me, which I will never forget.
I can remember when opening arguments began, Maddox, who represented himself, told the jury he was convinced that Tawana had been telling the truth about what had happened to her in 1987. “If we had thought that Tawana Brawley was lying, we would have taken her to the woodshed and whipped the daylights out of her.”
He was pre-deceased by his wife Leola W. Maddox who died in 2017, They had one son,
A Home Going Service for Alton Maddox, Jr. is being planned to take place at the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in the City of New York. Black Westchester celebrates the life of Alton Maddox Jr., the famous civil rights attorney who had lengthy legal career which included fighting for the Black community in New York City.