Despite what you might see on TV courtroom dramas, being a good litigator is not about being aggressive, flashy or devious. “To make it work, you must build a story around your facts,” says Wilma Williams Pinder ’62 , with the conviction of a seasoned lawyer.
For 30 years, Pinder represented the city of Los Angeles and rose to the position of assistant city attorney before she retired in 2008. She knows the courtroom well. She also knows about the importance of hard work and persistence, both in the legal world and beyond it.
The older of two sisters, Pinder was only 3 years old when her family moved from Shreveport, Louisiana, to LA in search of better opportunities. She’s thankful for her parents’ can-do spirit. “They raised us to be decent, caring people and to have no expectations of anyone except ourselves,” she says. Pinder’s mother, a Realtor and the family’s main breadwinner, used to tell her, “You’re going to college, and I am going to pay for it.” And she did.
A graduate of Dorsey High School, Pinder attended what was then called Pepperdine College (at that time, located a few miles south of USC in South LA), then transferred to USC her junior year. In an undergraduate psychology class, she met the young man who would become her husband: Frank E. Pinder III ’63. “He was just a kid, like I was,” she recalls. “But we shared the same values, and he ended up being such a joy.”
Besides common values, they shared a curiosity and caring about people. Wilma Pinder went on to earn a master’s degree in psychology at Howard University, where Frank earned his medical degree, later specializing in psychiatry. (Currently semi-retired, he still works part time as an assistant clinical professor for the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center’s Psychiatric Inpatient Service.) After stints teaching psychology in the 1970s, Wilma Pinder studied law at UCLA and then joined the city of Los Angeles’ legal team.
Known during her career for being a consummate attorney with an unrelenting style, Pinder brings that same passion to volunteering. A self-described “perpetual cheerleader for USC,” she helped organize her class’s 50th reunion as well as the USC Women’s Conference in 2012. She also serves on the board of the Half Century Trojans alumni group. “You can come home again,” she says.
Besides organizing events and activities, Pinder enjoys being swept up in the spirit of the university. “It’s an anchor in LA,” she says, leaning back in an armchair in the President’s Lounge at Widney Alumni House. “And it has made an imprint on the world, because there are so many international students here.”
It’s not surprising that she mentions USC’s international flavor. The Pinders have traveled far and wide throughout America, Africa, Europe and Asia, taking their Trojan spirit with them. A picture that she recently found in her home in the Mid-Wilshire area shows her and Frank in 1987, posing in front of the Great Wall of China. All smiles, they’re both raising two fingers to the sky: V for Victory.