Nathan Benjamin Young, Jr. was born at home in Tuskegee, Alabama, 28 November 1894. His next door neighbor at the time of his birth was Booker T. Washington, the famous educator, who was a friend of Nathan's father, Nathan B. Young, Sr. Nathan, Sr., taught with Mr. Washington at Tuskegee Institute, and would later go on to become President of Florida A & M College and of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. Nathan, Jr. was raised and educated in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
In 1915, he completed his undergraduate studies at Florida A & M College where he was a fine athlete and musician as well as being an excellent student. He then attended Yale University Law School, graduating in 1918. One of his instructors at Yale Law School was William Howard Taft, the former President of the United States. Upon graduation from Yale, Young took a job practicing law in Birmingham, Alabama. His work in Birmingham as an organizer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) brought him a warning from the Ku Klux Klan. It was also in Birmingham that he met Mamie Mason, and in 1924 they were married. He and Mamie soon decided to move to St. Louis, Missouri, where he established a law practice. His marriage to Mamie lasted fifty- eight years, until she passed away in 1982. They had three children--Ira, Jean, and Gertrude.
In 1928, Nathan co-founded The St. Louis American, an African- American weekly newspaper, for which he served as publisher and editorial writer for more than forty-three years. As a civil rights activist, his incisive editorials and commentaries would disturb the social and moral conscience of the St. Louis community for years. He served in this professional capacity for forty-two years, never having actually owned the newspaper, nor ever having received a salary for his work.
He was also a co-founder and long-time member of the Mound City Bar Association. In 1965, after serving as Assistant City Counselor for the City of St. Louis, he was appointed Municipal Court Judge by Alfonso J. Cervantes, Mayor of St. Louis. He was the first African-American to serve in this position in St. Louis. Shortly after his new appointment, he had another encounter with the Ku Klux Klan. This time, they burned a cross on the lawn of his home. Yet nothing would deter his dedication to preserve and protect the rights of every individual. Even after his retirement from the bench in 1972, he remained a powerful voice for justice and civil rights in St. Louis.
He exhibited continuing energy during his retirement years, spending his time writing, painting, and lecturing. His works demonstrated a wide ranging expertise in St. Louis history and folk culture, world issues, art, and music. A self-taught artist, he painted over five hundred acrylic works, whose subject matter ranged from family portraits to international issues to depictions of critical people or events in the civil rights movement. Many of his paintings have been exhibited throughout the nation. Judge Young was the recipient of honorary doctorate degrees from Saint Louis University, Lincoln University, and Harris-Stowe State College.
Nathan B. Young, Jr., was a true renaissance man: husband, father, lawyer, judge, writer, publisher, historian, artist, musician, and champion in the service of the African-American heritage. He died on March 24, 1993, at the age of 98.