African American State Supreme Court Justices Since 1870

Jonathan Jasper Wright
Historic Marker for the Honorable Jonathan Jasper Wright, Charleston

Since the first African American, Jonathan Jasper Wright, was appointed to the State Supreme Court of South Carolina in 1870, black men and women have slowly but steadily obtained seats on the highest state courts across the nation. Listed below are the first African Americans elected or appointed to the highest courts in their respective states. As you can see, there are many justices who await volunteers to write their profiles.  Please help us bring their stories to the public by writing about them for BlackPast.org.  If you are interested please contact us at volunteer@blackpast.org.

Alabama
Oscar Adams, Jr., 1980

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas
George Howard, Jr., 1977

California
Wiley W. Manuel, 1977

Colorado
Gregory Kellam Scott, 1992

 

Connecticut
Robert Davis Glass, 1987

Delaware

Florida
Joseph W. Hatchett, 1975

 

Georgia
Robert Benham, 1989

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois
Charles E. Freeman, 1990

 

Indiana
Myra C. Selby, 1995

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky
William E. McAnulty, Jr. 2005

 

Louisiana
Revius Oliver Ortique, Jr., 1992

Maine

Maryland
Harry A. Cole, 1977

Massachusetts
Roderick Ireland, 1997

Michigan
Otis M. Smith, 1961

 

Minnesota
Alan Page, 1993

Mississippi
Reuben V. Anderson, 1985

Missouri
Ronnie L. White, 1995


Montana

Nebraska

 

Nevada
Michael Douglas, 2004

New Hampshire

New Jersey
James Coleman, Jr., 1944

New Mexico

 

New York
Harold A. Stevens, 1955

 

North Carolina
Henry Frye, 1983

North Dakota

Ohio
Robert Morton Duncan, 1969

Oklahoma
Tom Colbert, 2004

Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals*
David B. Lewis, 2005

 

Oregon
Adrienne C. Nelson, 2018


Pennsylvania
Robert C. Nix, Jr. 1972

 

Rhode Island

South Carolina
Jonathan Jasper Wright, 1870

South Dakota

Tennessee
George H. Brown, 1980

Texas
Wallace B. Jefferson, 2001

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals*
Louis Sturns, 1990

Utah

Vermont

Virginia
John Charles Thomas, 1983


Washington

Charles Z. Smith, 1988

West Virginia
Franklin D. Cleckley, 1994

Wisconsin
Louis B. Butler, Jr. 2004

Wyoming

 

 

*Both Oklahoma and Texas have Courts of Criminal Appeal which are considered of equal rank to their State Supreme Courts.