LSU Law Community Mourns the Passing of The Honorable Ralph E. Tyson, Distinguished LSU Law Graduate

July 18 – Baton Rouge

The LSU Law Community received word today that The Honorable Ralph E. Tyson, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana and a 1973 graduate of the Law Center, has passed away.

“Judge Tyson was universally admired and respected in the legal community and beyond,” said Chancellor Jack Weiss.  “He was truly, in the proverbial sense, a gentleman and a scholar. We here at LSU Law feel a special connection to the Judge and his family, and a special pride in all that he stood for. We have lost a good friend and a great alumnus.”  Judge Tyson’s son, Christopher Tyson, is a Professor at the LSU Law Center.

Judge Tyson was honored as the LSU Law Center Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 2009, and only a few short weeks ago, on May 27, 2011, Judge Tyson was inducted into the LSU Law chapter of the Order of the Coif as an honorary member.  He was also a former member of the Law Center’s Alumni Board of Trustees.

TysonRalph.jpgJudge Tyson devoted more than 30 years of his career to exemplary public service—as prosecutor, state court judge, and federal district judge. “At every step of the way, Judge Tyson has gained the respect and admiration of his peers, said Chancellor Weiss during the Distinguished Alumnus ceremony in 2009.  “We are proud to honor this consummate professional and esteemed community leader as our distinguished alumnus of 2009.”

Tyson served as Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.  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. He became Chief Judge in 2005.

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 taught as an adjunct law professor at LSU and as an instructor in the Sociology/Law Enforcement Department at Southern University. He was a member of the Board of the General Health System in Baton Rouge, and 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.

He is survived by his wife, the former Patricia Jordan, his mother, Theresa Tyson, and his children, Christopher, Todd, Eric, and Cara.

Arrangements are as follows:   Visitation at Wesly United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, Friday, July 22 from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.  Funeral services on Saturday, July 23 at 10:00 a.m., First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge.   

In lieu of flowers, family and friends have established the Ralph E. Tyson Memorial Scholarship at the LSU Law Center.  Donations to the fund may be made payable to:  LSU Foundation; notation line – Ralph E. Tyson Memorial Scholarship.  Mail to LSU Law Center, Office of Alumni Relations, Suite 400, Baton Rouge, LA 70803.  Gifts to support the scholarship may also be made on-line by visiting the LSU Foundation site at