Remembering The Day In 1979 When Anna Diggs Taylor Made History In Law

Remembering The Day In 1979 When Anna Diggs Taylor Made History In Law

In 1996, Judge Taylor became the first Black woman chief judge for Michigan's Eastern District following her 1979 appointment.

In 1979, the late Anna Diggs Taylor became the first Black woman judge to be appointed to the United States District Court as a federal judge for the Eastern District of Michigan.

The Michigan Advance reported that the Detroit attorney was sworn in on Nov. 15, 1979. Democratic President Jimmy Carter appointed the 46-year-old Washington, D.C., native to serve the post where she represented civil rights advocates and later presided over a portfolio of high-profile cases. The graduate of Barnard College and Yale Law School worked as a staff attorney for the city during the 1970s.

The judge sentenced Ronald Ebens in 1984 for his fatal beating of 27-year-old Chinese American Vincent Chin. In 2006, Taylor ordered a halt to the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping after the September 11 attacks.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel remembered the Black woman pioneer who approached another historic moment in 1996 after she was appointed as the first Black woman chief judge for Michigan’s Eastern District.

“She paved the way for many others behind her,” Nessel wrote in a Feb. 13 post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The Eastern District of Michigan saluted Taylor for her work in defending civil rights workers who were jailed for registering Blacks to vote. The 1964 mission led her and her team to face angry racists.

“We were afraid we were going to be killed,” Taylor said about the confrontation.

The Eastern District of Michigan released a statement on Nov. 17, 2017, the day Taylor died in Grosse Pointe Woods. Court employees remembered the retired 84-year-old for her service in the judicial system.

“She was an all-around beautiful person,” said one judge. “She was gracious and kind, but not in a way that allowed herself to be diminished by people because she was a woman or a minority.”

Judge Taylor’s service to several organizations included the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Receiving Hospital, the Henry Ford Hospital System, the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, and Community Foundation of Michigan. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from Marygrove College in 2001 and recognized with the Wolverine Bar Association’s Bench-Bar Award of 1990, the Sojourner Truth Award of the National Negro Business and Professional Women of 1986, and the 1981 National Bar Association Women Lawyer’s Division Award.

Taylor married Michigan congressman Charles Diggs Jr. in 1960, and had two children with him before they separated in the 1970s.

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