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In honor of Black History Month, the RCBA Diversity Committee celebrates the following legendary African-American attorneys who have greatly contributed to our national and local society and were the first in their respective positions.

Eunice Carter, Esq. (1899-1970) was the first African-American to receive a law degree from Fordham University.  In 1935, Ms. Carter became the first African-American female assistant district attorney in the State of New York.  As ADA, Ms. Carter commenced a prostitution racketeering investigation against mafia boss Lucky Luciano for which he was charged, prosecuted and convicted.

Hon. Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was the first African-American Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.  As counsel for the NAACP, Justice Marshall won the seminal case of Brown v. Board of Education which signaled the end of racial segregation in American public schools.

Hon. Jane Bolin (1908-2007) became the first African-American female judge in the United States when she was sworn in to the New York City Domestic Relations Court in 1939.  Judge Bolin was also the first African-American woman to graduate from Yale Law School in 1931, the first to join the New York City Bar Association and the first to join the New York City Law Department. 

Hon. David N. Dinkins (1927-2020) was the first African-American mayor of New York City.  Mayor Dinkins is notable for rebuilding low-income housing and neighborhoods across New York City. His administration played a crucial role in the revitalization of Times Square, having convinced Walt Disney Corp. to rehabilitate a 42nd Street theater. 

Ambassador Franklin H. Williams (1928-1990) was the first African-American to serve as U.S. representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council.  Ambassador Williams was appointed in 1987 by Chief Justice Sol Wachtler to chair the NYS Judicial Commission on Minorities, the first court-based commission on minorities in the U.S., which studied the treatment of minority group members in state courts.  The Franklin H. Williams Commission was established as a permanent commission in the NYS court system to promote racial and ethnic fairness in the courts.

President Barack Obama was the first African-American President of the United States.  President Obama served two terms as the forty-fourth President from 2008 to 2016.  During his first term he signed three signature bills: an omnibus bill to stimulate the economy, legislation making health care more accessible and affordable (“Obamacare”), and legislation reforming the nation’s financial institutions.  President Obama graduated from Harvard Law School and was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review

Eric H. Holder, Jr., was the first African-American U.S. Attorney General.  Mr. Holder served as Attorney General under President Obama’s administration from 2009 to 2015, making him the third longest serving Attorney General.

Madam Vice President Kamala Harris is the first African-American, first South Asian American and first woman Vice President.  Just prior to being elected Vice President, Vice President Harris represented California in Congress as a U.S. Senator.  Vice President Harris was the first African-American to serve as California’s Attorney General and San Francisco’s District Attorney. 

Hon. William Nelson was the first African-American County Court Judge and Acting Supreme Court Justice in Rockland County.  Judge Nelson was appointed to the Rockland County Family Court in 1984.  Judge Nelson was then elected to Rockland County Court in 1985 and re-elected in 1996 and 2006.  Judge Nelson retired in 2014. 

Darcel D. Clark is the first African-American woman to be elected District Attorney in New York State.  On January 1, 2016, Ms. Clark became the 13th District Attorney for Bronx County and was re-elected to a second term in 2019.

Letitia James is the first African-American woman Attorney General for the State of New York and the first African-American woman to hold statewide office in New York State.  Ms. James previously served as Public Advocate for the City of New York and became the first African- American woman to hold citywide office.  Prior to serving as Public Advocate, Ms. James represented the 35th Council District in Brooklyn in the New York City Council for ten years. 



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Rockland County Bar Association
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