by Lionel Muhammad
PARK FOREST, Ill.—Judge Greg Mathis is a well-known and prominent figure in the legal profession and television industry. His life challenges and triumphs are the subject of a stage play, “Don’t Judge Me,” which was performed Nov. 10-12 at Theater 47 in Park Forest, Ill., a Chicago suburb.
Born on April 5, 1960, in Detroit, Michigan, young Greg Mathis had a tumultuous upbringing. His father left the family when he was only four years old, leaving his mother to raise him and his four siblings single-handedly. Growing up in the projects of Detroit, he faced numerous challenges, including poverty and exposure to crime. At the age of 17, Greg Mathis dropped out of high school and became involved in illegal activities, which eventually led to his being arrested and jailed.
According to dontjudgemelive.com Greg Mathis eventually made a deathbed promise to his mother that he would change. He was inspired by a former civil rights activist and educator, Dr. Benjamin Hooks. Dr. Hooks encouraged Mathis to turn his life around and pursue education. Taking this advice to heart, Mathis obtained his GED and went on to attend Eastern Michigan University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration. Subsequently, he pursued a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.
“Making his way through law school and passing the bar exam, he was denied his law license. Destined to be who he is today, he took his case all the way to the Supreme Court and won!” the website noted.
Judge Greg Mathis’s life story serves as an inspiration to many individuals who have faced adversity and hardship. From overcoming personal struggles to dedicating himself to public service and advocacy, Judge Mathis exemplifies resilience and determination. His impact extends not only through his legal rulings but also through his influential presence on television and his unwavering commitment to social causes.
The stage play was uplifting and inspiring for those who attended the performances. Nation of Islam Student Supreme Captain Mustapha Farrakhan, son of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and Final Call General Manager Abdul Rasul Muhammad were among the audience members.
“When I retired from my secure judgeship in Detroit they offered me the television show and I retired, requiring them to show my journey at the beginning of each show, the beginning of each episode so that it can inspire folks to uplift themselves and overcome their obstacles, particularly our people,” Judge Mathis told The Final Call.
The chronicling of his journey was a part of each episode for 10 years and he received thanks and accolades from parents and others who were inspired by his story. However, about five years ago, Judge Mathis said he stopped hearing these testimonies. “Meeting Millennials, I was finding out that they didn’t know. They knew nothing about my journey,” he said, referring to people in the age range of age group of approximately 27-42. He said he felt because of that, God had some more work for him to do.
He said it reminded him of what he was told the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam said to Malcolm X when he was reporting to the Messenger his progress in establishing Temples in Michigan. “The Messenger said, ‘Well Malcolm, is everybody in Michigan a Muslim?’ …So, until everybody knows the roadmap, I’m going to keep talking about it,” Judge Mathis shared.
He also reflected on his dear mother sharing the biblical scripture from Proverbs which states, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Judge Mathis explained that his mother “force-fed” religion, moralities, values and education on him and his siblings.
“Unfortunately, in the elements that we lived in, all hell broke loose when she wasn’t around and we succumbed to the pressures and as I said in the show you’re either prey or you’re a predator and we didn’t want to be prey,” said Judge Mathis.
After obtaining his law degree, he became involved in community organizing and activism in Detroit. Judge Mathis has worked tirelessly to address social issues affecting the Black community, particularly focusing on combating police brutality and advocating for equal rights. His dedication and commitment to social justice caught the attention of then-Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young, who appointed him as a district court judge in 1995.
As a judge, Mathis made history by becoming the youngest person to ever serve on the Michigan circuit court. His courtroom style was characterized by a no-nonsense approach combined with compassion and understanding for the individuals appearing before him. He gained a reputation for his innovative methods aimed at rehabilitating offenders rather than simply punishing them.
He explained to The Final Call the importance of going back to work in communities after achieving success. When you are able to escape you have to go back and one, redeem what you’ve done to others. You have to, what did we call it at the Million Man March, atonement. You have to provide those things to our community and to yourself.”
Beyond his professional endeavors, Judge Greg Mathis is a devoted family man. He is married to Linda Reese, and together they have four children. Despite his demanding career, Judge Mathis prioritizes spending quality time with his family and remains actively involved in philanthropic efforts aimed at uplifting disadvantaged communities.
For more information visit dontjudgemelive.com.
Final Call General Manager Abdul Rasul Muhammad contributed to this report.