Julia Cooper Mack, who in 1975 became the first African American woman to serve on the D.C. Court of Appeals, died Jan. 17 at her home in Washington. She was 93.
She had complications from dementia, her daughter, Cheryl Pleasants, said.
Judge Mack was appointed to the District’s highest court by President Gerald R. Ford, making her the first woman of color to serve on any U.S. court of last resort, according to a 1997 article from the Howard Law Journal. She was a member of the appeals court for 14 years, then served as a senior judge until taking full retirement in 2001.
Julia Perry was born in Fayetteville, N.C., and received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1940 from what is now Hampton University in Virginia. She moved to Washington soon afterward and, for a short time, was a teacher in Baltimore.
After graduating from Howard University’s law school in 1951, Judge Mack worked in private practice before joining the Justice Department as a trial lawyer in 1954. She litigated more than 300 criminal cases for the d epartment, her daughter said.
In 1968, Judge Mack joined the general counsel’s office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and served as deputy general counsel from 1973 to 1975.
She was a member of many legal and professional organizations and received distinguished service awards from the EEOC and the Federal Bar Association, among other honors. She was a past member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Washington.
Her first marriage, to Jerry Cooper, ended in divorce. Her second husband, Clifford J. Mack, died in 1971.
Survivors include a daughter from her first marriage, Cheryl Pleasants of Columbia, Md.; a stepdaughter, Lydia Tucker of Lanham, Md.; a sister; and a granddaughter.
— Matt Schudel