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Gregory Ellis Mathis (born April 5, 1960) is a retired Michigan 36th District Court judge turned arbiter of the Daytime Emmy Award–winning, syndicated reality courtroom show, Judge Mathis. Produced in Chicago, Illinois, his program has been on the air since September 13, 1999 and entered its milestone 20th season beginning on Monday, September 3, 2018.
|Judge of the District Court of the State of Michigan|
Gregory Ellis Mathis
April 5, 1960
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Linda Reese (m. 1985)
|Children||Amir Mathis |
Greg Mathis Jr.
|Alma mater||Eastern Michigan University|
University of Detroit
Emanating from the success of his venerable courtroom series, Mathis has also made a name for himself as a prominent leader within the Black American community as a black-culture motivational speaker. Mathis boasts the longest reign of any African American presiding as a court show judge, beating out Judge Joe Brown whose program lasted 15 seasons. Mathis is also the second longest serving television arbitrator ever, behind only Judith Sheindlin of Judge Judy by three seasons.
A spiritually inspired play, Been there, Done that, based on his life toured twenty-two cities in the U.S. in 2002. In addition, Inner City Miracle, a memoir, was published by Ballantine Books.
Mathis was born in Detroit, Michigan, the fourth of four boys born to Charles Mathis, a Detroit native, and his wife Alice Lee Mathis, a devoted Seventh-day Adventist, nurse's aide, and housekeeper. Alice (then divorced from Charles) raised Mathis alone in Detroit during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. Mathis moved to Herman Gardens in 1964 and lived there with the family until roughly 1970. They moved away from the housing complex to avoid rising drug use and rates of violent crime.
Judge Mathis' real father was estranged from him, but associated closely with the Errol Flynns, a past notorious Detroit street gang, that Mathis would eventually join while a teenager. In the 1970s, he was arrested numerous times. While he was incarcerated in Wayne County Jail, as a seventeen-year-old juvenile, his mother visited him and broke the news that she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Mathis was offered early probation because of his mother's illness.
Once out of jail, Mathis began working at McDonald's, a job he needed to keep in order to maintain his release on probation. A close family friend helped Mathis get admitted to Eastern Michigan University, and he discovered a new interest in politics and public administration. He became a campus activist and worked for the Democratic Party, organizing several demonstrations against South African Apartheid policies. He graduated with a B.S. in Public Administration from the Ypsilanti campus and began to seek employment in Detroit's City Hall. He also became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Mathis was denied a license to practice law for several years after graduating from law school because of his criminal past. He received his J.D. from the University of Detroit Mercy in 1987. In 1995, he was elected a district court judge for Michigan's 36th District, making him the youngest person in the state to hold the post. During the five years he was on the bench, he was rated in the top five of all judges in the 36th District; there are about thirty judges each year.
Mathis began his political career as an unpaid intern, and then became an assistant to Clyde Cleveland, a city council member. It was at this time[when?] Mathis took the LSAT and applied to law schools; he was conditionally admitted to the University of Detroit School of Law, which was located in downtown Detroit, walking distance from city hall. He passed a summer course and was officially admitted to the night program which took four years to complete.
Mathis was appointed head of Jesse Jackson's Presidential campaign in the state of Michigan in 1988. Mathis later became head of Mayor Coleman Young's re-election campaign and after the victory was appointed to run the city's east side city hall.
Mathis has continued to be involved in politics after rising to national entertainment prominence through his television show. Urban politics and African-American movements have been his focus. Most recently, Mathis was invited by the Obama administration to be a part of "My Brothers Keeper", a White House Initiative to empower boys, and men of color.
On June 4, 2011, Detroit-area drivers lined up for blocks as Mathis offered up to $92 worth of free gasoline apiece to the first 92 drivers to show up at a northwest Detroit Mobil station. He told the Detroit Free Press it was a gift to the people who elected him to District Court despite his youthful criminal record. "LA didn't elect me judge," he said. "Chicago didn't elect me judge. Detroiters took a chance on me. It's just the right thing to do. And when you're blessed, you have to look out for the rest." The giveaway took place near the Mathis Community Center, which he funds. Its activities include self-improvement classes, food and clothing assistance, and training for ex-convicts. "No matter what international fame he's achieved, he's still a hometown guy," said WMXD-FM's Frankie Darcell, who announced the location on the air. "Everybody's happy. I'm happy," said gas station owner Mike Safiedine. "The people need it, especially (because) the price is very high."
In September 2008, Mathis wrote a novel called Street Judge, based on the life of a judge who solves murders. It was co-written by Zane, a well-known erotic series writer of Zane's Sex Chronicles. Mathis also wrote a book entitled Of Being a Judge to Criminals and Such.
Following his time spent in the Herman Gardens mixed-income housing, Mathis remained devoted to aiding families in the area. In 2003, he lobbied city officials on the behalf of former Herman Gardens residents, imploring lawmakers to allow these individuals first chance to move into new apartments built where Herman Gardens once stood.
Mathis met his wife, Linda, a fellow EMU student, shortly after his mother's death. They would go on to have four children together, a daughter Jade, born May 1985, daughter Camara, born October 1987, son Greg Jr. born January 1989 and son Amir, born July 1990. Mathis who is a member of the City Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church, was awarded the Black History Achievement Award from Oakwood University, which he says is the most meaningful award he has received.
- Mathis, Greg and Blair S. Walker. Inner City Miracle, Ballantine: New York, 2002.
- Mathis, Greg. "Black men must fight back against obstacles." (For Brothers O Ebony (magazine). February 1, 2007. vol: 62:4 p. 38
- "People Summary". Veromi.net. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
- "Judge Mathis recalls highlights from his Chicago-filmed TV show ahead of Season 20 premiere". August 30, 2018. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
- "'Judge Mathis' Is About To Start Its 20th Season". July 26, 2018. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
- "The Raw Word". July 30, 2018. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
- Pierre, Robert (August 24, 2003). "In Detroit, Displaced Residents Still Waiting". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
- Detroit News Report "Judge Mathis denies involvement in mayor's legal fund, calls on Kilpatrick to quit"
- Mathis, Greg and Blair S. Walker. Inner City Miracle, Ballatine: New York, 2002
- "Judge Greg Mathis: Oakwood University's 2017 Black History Achievement Award Recipient". Speaking' Out News. Retrieved 2018-10-16.