On this day in 1999: Pioneering African-American female judge honored

    Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

    The Michigan House of Representatives on March 2, 1999, adopted a resolution honoring Claudia House Morcom, one of the state’s leading lawyers and retired judge.

    Morcom, a Detroit native, earned a degree from Wayne State University Law School in 1956.

    In 1960, Morcom became the first African-American woman to work at the nation’s first racially integrated law firms — Goodman, Crockett, Eden and Robb — which was known for its labor and civil rights advocacy.

    During “Freedom Summer” in 1964, she volunteer to help register African-Americans in Mississippi to vote. In 1972, Morcom became an administrative law judge for the Michigan Department of Labor, Bureau of Workers’ Disability Compensation.

    Claudia House Morcom | Facebook

    In 1983, Gov. James Blanchard appointed her to the Wayne County Circuit Court. She was the first African-American woman to serve in that capacity.

    U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Damon Keith lauded her to the Detroit Free Press.

    “She was deeply committed to the welfare of this community,” Keith said.

    Morcom died in 2014. She is a member of the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.


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