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African American Judges

In 1883, George L. Ruffin became the first African American appointed to the Massachusetts judiciary. It was not until 1958—seventy-five years later—that the next full-time African American judge was appointed in this state.

Although African Americans did receive part-time appointments in 1948 and 1953, African American judicial appointments remained infrequent until the introduction of the Judicial Nominating Committee by Governor Francis Sargent in 1970. The end of the 20th century, however, brought significant progress with African American judges gaining appointments to every Trial Court Department (except the Land Court), as well as the Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court.

Honorable George L. Ruffin (deceased)
Appointed 1883, Charlestown Municipal Court

Honorable G. Bruce Robinson (deceased)
Appointed 1948, Juvenile Court (special)

Honorable Edward O. Gourdin (deceased)
Appointed 1952, District Court (special)
Appointed 1958, Superior Court

Honorable Elwood S. McKenney (retired)
Appointed 1960, District Court

Honorable Joseph S. Mitchell (retired)
Appointed 1966, Superior Court

Honorable Harry J. Elam (retired)
Appointed 1971, Boston Municipal Court
Appointed 1978, Chief Justice, Boston Municipal Court
Appointed 1983, Superior Court

Honorable David S. Nelson (deceased)
Appointed 1973, Superior Court

Honorable Herbert E. Tucker, Jr. (retired)
Appointed 1973, District Court

Honorable Richard L. Banks (deceased)
Appointed 1973, District Court

Honorable James W. Bailey (deceased)
Appointed 1973, District Court

Honorable Baron H. Martin (retired)
Appointed 1974, District Court

Honorable Ronald D. Harper (retired)
Appointed 1974, Juvenile Court

Honorable Frederick L. Brown
Appointed 1976, Appeals Court

Honorable Margaret Burnham (retired)
Appointed 1977, Boston Municipal Court

Honorable Roderick L. Ireland
Appointed 1977, Juvenile Court
Appointed 1990, Appeals Court
Appointed 1997, Supreme Judicial Court

Honorable George A. Sheehy (retired)
Appointed 1978, District Court

Honorable Rudolph F. Pierce (retired)
Appointed 1978, Superior Court

Honorable Julian T. Houston
Appointed 1979, District Court
Appointed 1990, Superior Court

Honorable Marie O. Jackson-Thompson
Appointed 1980, District Court

Honorable James D. McDaniel, Jr. (retired)
Appointed 1981, District Court
Appointed 1982, Superior Court

Honorable Darrell L. Outlaw (retired)
Appointed 1981, District Court

Honorable R. Malcolm Graham
Appointed 1982, District Court
Appointed 1986, Superior Court

Honorable Barbara A. Dortch-Okara
Appointed 1984, Boston Municipal Court
Appointed 1989, Superior Court
Appointed 1998, Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court

Honorable John G. Martin
Appointed 1984, Housing Court

Honorable Charles Ray Johnson
Appointed 1984, Boston Municipal Court

Honorable Charles T. Spurlock
Appointed 1986, District Court
Appointed 1992, Superior Court

Honorable Severlin B. Singleton, III
Appointed 1989, District Court

Honorable Herman J. Smith, Jr.
Appointed 1990, Housing Court
Appointed 1995, Superior Court

Honorable Paul L. McGill
Appointed 1990, District Court

Honorable June C. Miles (retired)
Appointed 1990, Juvenile Court

Honorable Emogene Johnson
Appointed 1992, Industrial Accident Board; Appointed 2002 Housing Court

Honorable Susan Maze-Rothstein
Appointed 1992, Industrial Accident Board

Honorable Gregory L. Phillips
Appointed 1992, District Court

Honorable Edward R. Redd
Appointed 1993, District Court

Honorable Milton L. Wright, Jr.
Appointed 1993, Roxbury District Court

Honorable Mark Hart Summerville
Appointed 1993, Boston Municipal Court

Honorable Judith Nelson Dilday
Appointed 1993, Probate and Family Court

Honorable Leslie E. Harris
Appointed 1994, Juvenile Court

Honorable Jacques Claude Leroy
Appointed 1994, District Court

Honorable Joseph M. Walker, III
Appointed 1994, District Court
Appointed 2000, Superior Court

Honorable Gwendolyn R. Tyre
Appointed 1996, Juvenile Court

Honorable Annette Forde
Appointed 1997, Boston Municipal Court

Honorable Marjory Ann Collins German
Appointed 1999, Juvenile Court

Honorable Tina S. Page
Appointed 1999, Superior Court

Honorable Robert E. Baylor
Appointed 1999, District Court

Honorable Toby S. Mooney
Appointed 2002, District Court
Honorable Lee G. Johnson
Appointed 2001, District Court
Honorable Geraldine S. Hines
Appointed 2002, Superior Court
Honorable Wilber Edwards
Appointed 2002, Housing Court


Honorable Willie J. Davis (retired)
Appointed 1971, United States Magistrate

Honorable Rudolph F. Pierce (retired)
Appointed 1976, United States Magistrate

Honorable Joyce London Alexander
Appointed 1979, United States Magistrate
Appointed 1996, United States Chief
Magistrate Judge

Honorable David S. Nelson (deceased)
Appointed 1980, United States District Court

Honorable Reginald C. Lindsay
Appointed 1994, United States District Court




George Lewis Ruffin

Appointed to Charlestown Municipal Court in 1883, Judge George Lewis Ruffin achieved several “firsts” during his all-too-brief life. He was the first African American appointed to the Massachusetts judiciary, and the first African-American graduate of Harvard Law School.
Courtesy Harvard Law School Art Collection


Massachusetts Black Judges Conference
The Massachusetts Black Judges Conference was founded in 1977 to represent the interests of African American judges in Massachusetts. The MBJC sponsors an annual Book Award program, which recognizes outstanding African American law students in Massachusetts. It also advocates on behalf of the African American judiciary in public forums.