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Justice Adrienne Nelson became the first Black justice of the Oregon Supreme Court in 2018 and the first Black woman elected statewide in Oregon.
By The Skanner News
Published: 23 February 2021

Six Black judges who broke racial barriers in the legal profession will discuss the obstacles they overcame in a program Friday, Feb. 26, sponsored by the American Bar Association Judicial Division.

The six judges – four from the federal system and two from state Supreme Courts – will be featured in a program titled “Judicial Trailblazers and the Hills They've Climbed: A Discussion with Preeminent African-American Judges and Their Challenges and Triumphs.” The discussion is part of a series of programs sponsored by the ABA in honor of Black History Month.

Judges featured in the program will be:

  • Dennis Archer, former justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. Archer became mayor of Detroit in 1994 and the first Black president of the ABA in 2003. He was the second Black man to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court.
  • Judge Bernice Donald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Donald became the first Black woman in the country to serve as a federal bankruptcy judge in 1988. Previously, in 1982, she was elected to the General Sessions Criminal Court in Tennessee, where she became the first Black female judge in that state.
  • Judge Roger Gregory, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Gregory became the first Black judge on the Fourth Circuit appeals court in 2001. He co-founded the law firm of Wilder & Gregory in 1982 with Douglas Wilder, who later became governor of Virginia and the first elected Black governor in the United States in 1990.
  • Justice Adrienne Nelson of the Oregon Supreme Court. Nelson became the first Black justice of the Oregon Supreme Court in 2018 and the first Black woman elected statewide in Oregon.
  • Judge Carl E. Stewart of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Stewart has been a federal appeals court judge since 1994 and was chief judge of the court from 2012 to 2019. He was the first Black judge of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Ann Claire Williams, former judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Williams became the first woman of color to serve on a U.S. district court in the Seventh Circuit in 1985. She became the only judge of color on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 1999.  

The program, which runs from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. PT, will be moderated by Danielle R. Holley-Walker, dean of the Howard University School of Law.

Register for the event online here.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. 

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