2018 : Lucile A. Watts Dies, Michigan’s First Black Female Circuit Court Judge

June 22, 2024 all-day

Lucile A. Watts, the first black woman to be elected a circuit court judge in Michigan, has died at the age of 97.

Watts graduated from the Detroit College of Law in 1962 and started her own law firm because no one would hire a woman, she told the Free Press last year.

“At that time, being a woman was worse than being black,” she said in the interview.

She was representing Great Lakes Mutual Insurance Co. when violence gripped Detroit in the summer of 1967, and she learned one of the agents had been picked up by police and was being detained.

Her client had been arrested for being black and walking the streets, she said.

Watts, a former model, then joined other African-American lawyers in the community to get men out of custody. A real estate and divorce lawyer, Watts helped organize and coordinate the work of the other lawyers who were involved in defending the men and seeking their release.

“If you were black and a man, you were subject to be picked up,” she said last year. “They arrested so many people they had to corral them on Belle Isle like cattle.”

After practicing law for nearly 20 years, Watts was elected a Wayne County Circuit Court judge in 1980, the first black, female judge to join that bench. The Free Press reported last year that Watts was the first African-American woman elected as a circuit court judge in Michigan.

For the full article, see Jennifer Dixon, “Lucile Watts, Wayne County’s first black, female judge, has died at age 97“, Detroit Free Press, June 24, 2018.

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