Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Virginia Supreme Court’s 1st Black Female Justice Cleo E. Powell

Cleo is humble, she is faithful, and truly her works speak for her

Cleo E. Powell — accompanied by her husband and her mother — placed her left hand on her late father’s Bible and took the oath of office that made her the first black female Virginia state Supreme Court Justice in history. “I recognize and I know this is not about me,” she later told the packed courtroom. “It’s never been about me. It’s about the thousands of people who have worked diligently and given their lives that these opportunities will be available.”
On her journey to the Virginia Supreme Court, Powell served more than two years on the Virginia Court of Appeals and previously served as a circuit court and general district court judge for Chesterfield County and Colonial Heights. Prior to that she specialized in labor and employment law for the Hunton & Williams law firm in Richmond.
“It’s truly a great blend of experience in the public and private sectors,” Gov. Bob McDonnell said. But equally impressive, he said, is Powell’s service on the board of the Central Virginia Food Bank.
Her pastor, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, lauded Powell for church activities benefiting children and the homeless.
“Cleo is humble, she is faithful, and truly her works speak for her,” he said.
Powell’s cousin, the Rev. Grady Wilson Powell Sr. told the audience that when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox in 1865 and slavery was abolished in America,  a 12-year-old ex-slave named Jim Powell started walking east along a wagon trail. As the sun began to set, he panicked, realizing he had nowhere to go. He stopped at a nearby house, where he asked for a job.

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