Unsung hero: As a pioneering lawyer and judge, Elreta Alexander-Ralston left an indelible mark on civil rights and criminal justice reform | Crime-and-Courts

“She was such a good compartment,” Summey said. “She just continued.”

“Discover the strength of Elreta”

UNCG historian and professor Virginia Summey is the author of a new biography of Judge Elreta M. Alexander-Ralston. Courtroom 2A at the Guilford County Courthouse – where his portrait hangs – is named in his honor.

Courtesy of Virginie Summey

Summey, originally from North Carolina, was working on a master’s degree in history at the University of Montana in 2010 when she got an assignment to write about pioneer women in her “Writing Women’s Lives” class, and wanted to focus on something. ‘one from her home. .

She came across Judge Elreta Alexander-Ralston while browsing the North Carolina History Museum website.

“And then I continued,” Summey said.

A child prodigy who graduated from Dudley High School at 15 and NC A&T at 18, Alexander-Ralston is considered an unsung national hero by Columbia Law School, where, as part of the Class of 1945, she was the first black female graduate.

Sitting high on the bench, Judge “A”, as she was called, would often look over her reading glasses and make the courtroom shake.

“Speak now, honey, because the truth will set you free,” she often coaxed.

Also known for her fabulous furs and the clicking of her heels in the courthouse hallway, she was both revered and feared.

About Marion Alexander

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