In Loving Tribute to an Honorable Life

Scholarship fund in memory of the Honorable Sidney Barthwell Jr. JD ’90 expands opportunities for Harvard Law School students

Sid and Judy
Sid running
Sid being sworn in
Sid and President Obama
Sid playing piano
Sid with childhood friends
Sid and Judy hiking

In Loving Tribute to an Honorable Life

Sidney Barthwell Jr. JD ’90 was many things to many people: judge, lawyer, poet, author, athlete, artist, husband, son, brother, uncle, and friend.

One of the first African American graduates of Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, he went on to Wayne State University and Harvard Law School (HLS) en route to a distinguished legal career. He added “Honorable” to his name as magistrate of the 36th District Court in Detroit for 10 years, and he lived up to that title both in and out of the courtroom. In all his endeavors, Barthwell was committed to advancing the ideals of inclusiveness, equity, and the transformative power of education.

Following Barthwell’s death in May 2020, fellow Cranbrook and HLS alumnus Jim Bailey AB ’69, MBA ’72, JD ’73 was determined to honor his dear friend’s memory. Bailey made a generous gift to establish an endowed scholarship fund in Barthwell’s name at HLS—and another at Cranbrook—to create opportunities for community-minded scholars from underrepresented groups to emulate Barthwell’s example.

“One way I can carry on Sid’s legacy is to make sure this fund reaches as many students as possible,” says Bailey, himself a scholarship recipient throughout his entire academic career. “I hope learning about his story and accomplishments galvanizes others to contribute to help future generations of HLS students devote their lives to this calling and to making this world a better place for everyone—just as Sid did.”

The Honorable Sidney Barthwell, Jr. JD90 Memorial Scholarship Fund has received support from more than a dozen donors to date. For more information about the Barthwell Memorial Scholarship Fund, contact HLS.

“This scholarship is a meaningful tribute to Sid’s life that will make a difference for generations of Harvard Law School students by easing their financial burdens both as students and as graduates. We are deeply grateful to have this generous resource and hope others will join Jim Bailey in supporting the Barthwell Scholarship,” says Steven Oliveira, associate dean and dean for development and alumni relations at HLS.

The scholarship is having an immediate impact for the inaugural recipient, Krista Cezair JD ’23, MPH ’23. A dual-degree student at HLS and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Cezair aims to use her education to increase access to mental health care for all.

“The same desire to help people that Mr. Barthwell exhibited in his life is what brought me to Harvard Law School,” she wrote in a letter to Bailey and the Barthwell family. “I have already begun developing the skills I need to use the practice of law to make people’s lives better. I am committed to increasing access to mental health care so that everyone has the same opportunity I now have to achieve their own dreams. It is truly an honor to follow in the giant footprints Mr. Barthwell left behind.”

“I hope learning about Sid’s story and accomplishments galvanizes others to contribute to help future generations of HLS students devote their lives to this calling and to making this world a better place for everyone—just as Sid did.”


Sid high school photo

Sidney Barthwell Jr.: A Man of Many Talents

  • After graduating from high school, Barthwell moved to New York City, where he wrote poetry about the challenges faced by African Americans, started a nonprofit that focused on raising awareness of sickle cell anemia, and taught African American history in community schools.

  • While at Harvard Law School, he was the executive editor of the Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal, the general editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, and a member of the Harvard Black Law Students Association.

  • A lifelong athlete, he ran in 14 marathons, 12 half-marathons, and numerous other races. In 2011, he published the book Runner: Traversing the Road of Life about an unnamed runner who contemplates issues of life while running a marathon. 

  • A committed philanthropist and volunteer, he was involved in numerous local and national organizations, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Park Foundation.

  • Read Barthwell’s obituary to learn more about his extraordinary life.