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story.lead_photo.caption George W. Draper III Photo by Missouri Supreme Court

Missouri Supreme Court Judge George W. Draper III will be the court's next chief justice, beginning Monday.

He'll succeed Zel Fischer, who has been the chief justice since July 1, 2017, and remains a member of the court.

It's only a two-year, mainly administrative job that rotates among the seven judges on the high court, with a formal vote among the judges to officially name the next chief.

Draper is only the second African American to serve as the Supreme Court's chief justice.

He's a St. Louis native but, while still in elementary school, his family moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, where he completed his education in the public school system.

He then received his bachelor's degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta, in 1977, and his law degree in 1981 from Howard University in Washington, D.C. — where his father and his wife, Judy, also earned their law degrees.

After serving as a law clerk to Judge Shellie Bowers (also a St. Louis native) of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Draper returned to St. Louis in 1984 as a prosecutor in the city's circuit attorney's office.

While there, he was promoted to a team leader position in 1990 and to first assistant in 1993.

Since 1996, Draper also has served as an adjunct professor of law at Saint Louis University, where he teaches trial advocacy.

In July 1994, then-Gov. Mel Carnahan appointed Draper to be an associate circuit judge in St. Louis County — and, four years later, Carnahan named him a St. Louis County circuit judge. In 2000, Carnahan appointed Draper to the St. Louis-based Missouri Court of Appeals, where was the first African-American to serve as chief judge, from July 2004-June 2005. In October 2011, then-Gov. Jay Nixon appointed Draper to the Supreme Court of Missouri, and voters retained him for a 12-year term on the high court in November 2012.

He's the chairman of the state's treatment courts coordinating commission and also serves as the court's liaison to the judiciary's family court committee and to its ad hoc committee on racial and ethnic fairness.

Draper and his wife, Judy P. Draper, who is a former St. Louis County associate circuit judge, live in St. Louis County; they have one daughter, Chelsea Westin Draper, who also is a lawyer and serves as deputy chief of staff to the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney.

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