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Wright promises to use her head and her heart on high court

Justice Wilhelmina Wright told the audience at her investiture that the law has made them all better persons. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)

On Oct. 16, when Justice Wilhelmina (Mimi) Wright was invested as the 90th justice of the Supreme Court and the first African-American woman on the court, it was an historic but also warm and, in the words of Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Kalitowski, “absolutely joyous” gathering. Wright took the office with her mother holding her Bible and her daughter robing her, and said that her husband insisted that there be three generations of women on stage.

Speakers included Federal Public Defender Katherian Roe, who remarked that 35 years ago Justice Rosalie Wahl became the first woman on the court, 20 years ago Justice Alan Page became the first African-American on the court, and now Justice Wright is the first African-American woman on the court. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael Davis told the crowd to “lighten up. This is a fantastic occasion.” And Kalitowski reminded the audience that “In the excitement and celebration of the first African-American woman to the Supreme Court, we must remember that first and foremost this was a merit appointment.” Wright measures up “extraordinarily well” to other judges, he said.

For her part, Wright promised to bring both her head and her heart to the court. She recalled her days when she clerked for Senior Judge Damon Keith of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He would send the clerks to District Court to watch proceedings. “He never wanted us to forget that real people were affected by the law,” she said. She also thanked her parents, saying every child should be so fortunate as to have her mother and father.

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