VOICES: She paved the way for other Black women. Now she’s retiring.

This guest opinion column by Deirdre Logan, a Dayton Municipal Court judge, appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Sunday, Dec. 6.

Credit: Classic Expressions

Credit: Classic Expressions

By now most everyone has seen the photo illustration of Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris walking alongside 6-year-old Ruby Bridges, a Civil Rights trailblazer.

Credit: Classic Expressions

Credit: Classic Expressions

From the African American girl who desegregated an all-white elementary school in 1960, to the election of a Black woman as vice president of the United States in 2020, this image was intended to empower little Black girls by showing the progress and the possibilities. The election and the image has caused me to think about local historic firsts for Black women, specifically in the court system.

Only seven Black women have served as judges of the Dayton and Montgomery County Courts: Alice O. McCollum, Adele Riley, Denise Cross, Frances McGee, Risa McCray, Mia Spells and myself, Deirdre Logan.

McCollum was the first woman, and the first Black woman, to be appointed and elected judge in the Dayton Municipal Court. Her appointment in 1979 broke 65 years of precedence of male judges. Thereafter, she was elected in 1979, 1985, 1991 and 1997. She continued to make history in 2003, when she was the first woman and first Black person elected judge of the Montgomery County Probate Court.

Being the first Black person in anything has been described as a proud and lonely walk. McCollum was the lone Black woman during much of her judicial career. However, her elections proved that Black women can be elected as judges, and other Black women followed her lead in courts throughout Montgomery County. Each of the six Black female judges who came after McCollum have been mentored by her. This she did with openness and genuineness. Her only motivation was to ensure that we would succeed.

McCollum will be retiring at the end of the year after 42 years. She has worked hard and achieved a stellar judicial career and a reputation for excellence. She exemplifies all the qualities of great judges: fairness, kindness, patience, dignity, promptness, independence and common sense. As a result of her hard work, she is now the longest serving Black female judge in Montgomery County.

Recently, McCollum and five Black female judges gathered to document their history and preserve it in a photograph. Like the image of Kamala Harris and Ruby Bridges, maybe some little Black girl will view this image, be inspired and see the possibilities. This gathering was also our opportunity to personally acknowledge and thank Judge McCollum for being courageous enough to start it all for us to follow.

Deirdre Logan is a Dayton Municipal Court judge. Guest columns are submitted or requested fact-based opinion pieces typically of 300 to 450 words.

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