Born on November 26, 1910 in South Bend, Indiana to Walter and Alice Leighton, Judd Leighton spent most of his life in the community with his parents, two brothers (Walter and James) and a sister (Alice). He graduated from South Bend High School in 1930 and received his liberal arts degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. After graduation Judd served in the United States Navy and, after his tour of duty ended, he enrolled in Northwestern University Law School in Chicago where he received his juris doctor in 1947.
Judd worked as a law clerk in Washington, D.C., but soon returned to the South Bend area where he pursued a career in business and banking. He became chairman of First Interstate Bank of Northern Indiana and chairman of Benicia Industries in California, and served as a director of Gulf & Western Industries, Inc., Paramount Communications, Inc., and Associates Corporation of North America
On May 20, 1961, Judd married Mary Morris Oare. Mary was an active community leader, becoming President, Chairperson and Director Emeritus of The South Bend Symphony Orchestra as well as serving on numerous local and national boards. With her first husband, Robert L. Oare, Sr., Mary established the Robert L. and Mary Morris Oare Foundation in 1955 that was dedicated to encourage and promote education, medicine, music and the arts. Following the death of Robert, Judd was elected as a director of the Foundation board, and in 1971 the Foundation changed its name to the Leighton-Oare Foundation, Inc.
Throughout his life, Judd sought ways to add value to his community. A longtime member of the First Presbyterian Church in South Bend, he was on the Advisory Council of Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame and became a member of the Visiting Committee of Northwestern University School of Law. He held memberships in the American Bar Association, Indiana Bar Association, Illinois Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association.
Judd was a director/trustee of Memorial Health System, Inc., and Memorial Hospital of South Bend. He was a director emeritus of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra Association, Inc., and served on the board of directors of Morris Entertainment. He belonged to the National Gallery of Art Collectors Committee and was a life member of the Northern Indiana Historical Society. He was a founding member of the board of directors of the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, Inc., and was a trustee for Project Future.
After the passing of Mary Lou Leighton in 2001, Judd became chairman of the Leighton-Oare Foundation. An auditorium and cardiovascular lecture hall at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, bear the Leighton name. The Leighton Memorial Heart and Vascular Center in South Bend opened in 2005, and prior to that, Judd helped facilitate the improvements at the trauma center at Memorial Hospital of South Bend. The Memorial Leighton Senior Center serves seniors in the community, and the Memorial Leighton Healthplex promotes a healthy lifestyle for children. For the entire community, The Leighton Gallery at the Northern Indiana Center for History features both historical and current exhibits.