The Hon. Ralph E. Tyson, a 1973 graduate of the LSU Law Center and the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, has been named the 2009 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.
LSU Law Center Chancellor Jack M. Weiss made the announcement on Friday, March 20, at a joint meeting of the Board of Trustees and Young Alumni Leadership Council.
The award is given annually to an alumnus who exemplifies the highest quality and ethical standards of the legal profession. It also recognizes personal and professional achievements, as well as loyalty to the LSU Law Center.
“Ralph Tyson has devoted more than 30 years of his career to exemplary public service-as prosecutor, state court judge, and federal district judge,” said Weiss. “At every step of the way, Judge Tyson has gained the respect and admiration of his peers. We are proud to honor this consummate professional and esteemed community leader as our distinguished alumnus of 2009.”
In 1998, former President Bill Clinton nominated Tyson to a new judgeship in the U.S. District Court, making him the first African American judge in the Federal Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. In 2005, he became Chief Judge of the Federal Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.
Prior to his service in the Federal Courts, Tyson was employed as special counsel and assistant attorney general in the Louisiana Department of Justice; Assistant District Attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish; and for more than nine years, was the Chief City Prosecutor for the City of Baton Rouge. He was also engaged in private law practice for more than 15 years, first with the firm of Pitcher and Tyson and later with the firm of Tyson, Avery & Cunningham.
In 1988, Tyson was elected to a vacant seat in Division B of the Baton Rouge City Court, where he presided for more than five years. Subsequently, he was elected without opposition to Division B of the 19th Judicial District Court, where he presided over misdemeanor and felony criminal trials. From July 1997 to June 1998, Tyson served as the Chief Criminal Judge of the 19th Judicial District Court. During that time, he also served as Judge Pro Tempore on the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal by special appointment of the Louisiana Supreme Court from May 1997 to October 1997.
Tyson has also taught as an adjunct law professor at LSU and an instructor in the Sociology/Law Enforcement Department at Southern University from 1989 to 1998.
He has been married for 33 years to the former Patricia Jordan with whom he has four children, Chris, Todd, Eric, and Cara. He is a member of the Board of the General Health System in Baton Rouge, and has served on the boards of St. Joseph’s Home, the Baton Rouge Food Bank, the Audubon Girl Scout Council, and the Wesley Foundation at Southern University.
Tyson will be honored at an event to be hosted by the Law Center in Fall 2009. He joins the likes of Judge Alvin B. Rubin, Senator Russell B. Long, J. Bennett Johnston, and Patrick A. Juneau.