Judge Jean Murrell Capers, who served on the Cleveland Municipal Court for nine years, has died at the age of 104.
Common Pleas Judge John J. Russo announced her death via a statement Tuesday afternoon.
"On behalf of our Court, we are saddened by the loss of Judge Jean Murrell Capers, but we are honored to have been her colleagues," Russo said. "She was a pioneer and an inspiration, and Judge Capers will truly be missed."
The Honorable Ronald B. Adrine, Administrative and Presiding Judge, served with Judge Capers from 1982 to the end of 1985 when she retired from the Cleveland Municipal Court
“She was the kind of person who knew exactly where she wanted to go and had a strong idea as to how she was going to get there. She was also a person who was looking for younger black people that she thought would be able to carry the weight of the black community’s problems on their back and carry them to a better place,” Judge Adrine said.
Born in Kentucky in 1913, Capers graduated from Cleveland Law School (now Cleveland-Marshall) in 1945. Four years later, she made history as Cleveland's first African-American woman to be elected to the City Council. She spent much of her tenure fighting racial discrimination in the area.
After a stint in the Ohio Attorney General's office, Capers became on of the original member's of the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services' Women's Advisory Council. In 1977, Gov. Jim Rhodes appointed her to the Cleveland Municipal Court. She was later elected to a full six-year term, serving on the bench before retiring in 1986.
Judge Capers remained active in public affairs after her retirement and late in her life. She was considered a staunch advocate for the poor throughout her career.
In a statement on Capers' passing, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said he "will miss her dearly."
"Judge Capers gave her time and talent to mentoring future leaders and was a tenacious advocate and fighter for the City, the Central neighborhood and the people," Jackson said. "But, despite her accomplishments, she never forgot where she came from, and stayed in the Central neighborhood until just a few years ago."
James L. Hardiman, president of the local branch of the NAACP said, "Cleveland lost a legend today. As a city and people, we are blessed to have had her in our midst. We pray for her sister and her family, and salute the life and career of a giant who lived to serve others."
Funeral arrangements for Judge Capers have not yet been announced.