Today, Governor Roy Cooper honored Black History Month and recognized North Carolina’s African American lawyers and judges for their critical work in the legal field and justice system.
“North Carolina is a stronger and more inclusive place thanks to the contributions of many talented Black leaders, including lawyers and judges,” Governor Cooper said. “As we celebrate their achievements, we must acknowledge the systemic racism that still persists in our justice system and continue working toward fairness for everyone.”
“We know that Black History happens year-round, as exemplified by the work of the NC African American Heritage Commission to promote, protect, and preserve the culture, heritage and history of Black North Carolinians,” Dr. Valerie Ann Johnson, Chair of the NC African American Heritage Commission and Dean of Arts, Sciences, and Humanities at Shaw University said. “So, we are delighted that Governor Roy Cooper and his office set aside a special time to recognize the important contributions this year's Black History Month Honorees have made to the field of law and jurisprudence. How these honorees are connected is described aptly in the following quote by Pauli Murray (one of the posthumous honorees): ‘The lesson of history that all human rights are indivisible and that the failure to adhere to this principle jeopardizes the rights of all...’”
The NC African American Heritage Commission (NCAAHC) recognizes this month’s honorees in partnership with Governor Cooper. The NCAAHC is a division of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Governor Cooper has also proclaimed February as Black History Month in North Carolina.
Governor Cooper signed Executive Orders in June 2020 to form two task forces to address the barriers that communities of color face. The Andrea Harris Equity Task Force addresses the social, economic and health disparities that communities of color face. The North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice works on developing solutions to ensure racial equity in the state’s criminal justice system.
In January 2022, Governor Cooper signed Executive Order 246 to direct next steps in the state’s plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic opportunities for people across the state, especially in underserved communities. The Order emphasizes the importance of environmental justice and equity as North Carolina continues the transition to a clean energy future.
Diverse teachers in the classroom improve student success across the board and can help fill a significant gap in the number of qualified teachers North Carolina needs in our schools. In 2019, Governor Cooper established the DRIVE Task Force to improve equity and inclusion in education.
Judges and lawyers do critical work to ensure a just state for all. This year’s honorees include:
- The Honorable Elreta Melton Alexander-Ralston, former NC District Court Judge *
- The Honorable Cheri Beasley, former NC Supreme Court Chief Justice
- The Honorable Charles Becton, former NC Court of Appeals Judge
- The Honorable Karen Bethea-Shields, former NC District Court Judge
- The Honorable Loretta C. Biggs, US District Court Judge
- Senator Dan Blue, Jr., Esq.
- Steve Bowden, Esq.
- The Honorable Wanda Bryant, former NC Court of Appeals Judge
- Congressman G.K. Butterfield (retired), former NC Supreme Court Justice
- Julius Chambers, Esq. *
- The Honorable J. Carlton “J.C.” Cole, former NC Superior Court Judge
- Janice McKenzie Cole, Esq., former US Attorney
- Charles Edward Daye, Esq., Professor of Law, UNC Chapel Hill *
- The Honorable Allyson K. Duncan, former US Court of Appeals Judge
- The Honorable Anita Earls, NC Supreme Court Justice
- The Honorable Richard Cannon Erwin, former US District Court Judge *
- The Honorable Robert Evans, former District Attorney and former NC District Court Judge
- James Ferguson, Esq.
- Senator Milton “Toby” Fitch, former NC Superior Court Judge
- The Honorable Belinda Foster, former District Attorney
- The Honorable Carl R. Fox, former NC Superior Court Judge and former District Attorney
- The Honorable Henry E. Frye, former NC Supreme Court Chief Justice
- The Honorable Shirley Fulton, former NC Superior Court Judge *
- The Honorable Ralph Cornelius “Skip” Gingles, former Chief District Court Judge *
- The Honorable Fred Gore, NC Court of Appeals Judge
- Savi Horne, Esq.
- The Honorable Orlando Hudson, former NC Senior Resident Superior Court Judge
- The Honorable Clifton E. Johnson, former NC Court of Appeals Judge *
- Professor Irving L. Joyner
- Reginald Kenan, Esq.
- Representative Annie Brown Kennedy, Esq. *
- The Honorable Loretta E. Lynch, former US Attorney General
- Floyd B. McKissick, Sr., Esq.*
- The Honorable H.M. “Mickey” Michaux, Jr., former NC Senator, NC Representative, and US Attorney
- The Honorable Yvonne Mims Evans, former NC Superior Court Judge
- The Honorable Michael Morgan, NC Supreme Court Justice
- Dr. Pauli Murray *
- The Honorable Elaine O’Neal, Mayor
- Secretary Ron Penny, Esq.
- The Honorable A. Leon Stanback, Jr., former NC Superior Court Judge
- Gwynn Swinson, Esq.
- The Honorable Cressie Thigpen, Jr., former NC Court of Appeals Judge
- The Honorable Patricia Timmons-Goodson, former NC Supreme Court Justice
- Dr. Albert Turner, Esq. *
- Reginald Watkins, Esq.
- Congressman Mel Watt, former US Representative
- Congressman George Henry White, Esq. *
- James D. “Butch” Williams, Esq.
- Joseph Williams, Esq.
- The Honorable James Wynn, Jr., US
Read the proclamation.