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Robin Ransom Makes History As First Black Woman Named To Missouri Supreme Court

Judge Robin Ransom poses for a portrait at the Civil Courts Building in St. Louis in 2018. Ransom has become the first Black woman ever to be appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court.
File photo / Carolina Hidalgo
St. Louis Public Radio
Judge Robin Ransom poses for a portrait at the Civil Courts Building in St. Louis in 2018. On Monday, Ransom became the first Black woman to be appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court.

Gov. Mike Parson on Monday named Appeals Court Judge Robin Ransom of St. Louis to the Missouri Supreme Court — the first Black woman to hold the position.

“As the daughter of a fireman who worked and lived in a segregated engine house when he worked for the fire department, this is a very happy day for my mom, myself and my entire family,” Ransom said during a press conference in Jefferson City. “While I may be the first African American woman to be part of this court, I’d like to say I have never lived by a label or by identity that anyone has tried to put upon me.

“When I look in the mirror I’ve always been Robin. And I’ve always lived my life to be kind to everyone — and to be the best person that I can be. And I bring those same attributes to being on this court.”

Parson selected Ransom over fellow Appeals Court Judge Don Burrell and St. Louis County Circuit Judge Bill Corrigan. He made the selection fairly quickly, since a nonpartisan commission had just sent him three candidates to choose from on Friday afternoon.

But Parson said he already got to know Ransom reasonably well since he appointed her to the Missouri Court of Appeals in 2019. Before that, the University of Missouri-Columbia Law School graduate was a judge in St. Louis, a family court commissioner, a prosecutor and a public defender.

“I think relationships matter,” Parson said. “We had vetted her pretty thoroughly back in ‘19 when I put her on the Appellate Court. I knew of some of her rulings. We knew how she had really handled the position. All of those become factors when you’re picking a Supreme Court judge. It’s a tremendous amount of responsibility to get it right.”

Parson will have at least two more opportunities to fill Supreme Court vacancies before his term expires in 2024, as George Draper and Patricia Breckenridge will have to retire because of age limits.

The Appellate Judicial Commission sent Parson three nominees that Republican governors previously appointed. That will likely become more commonplace since all the non-lawyer members of the commission will be filled by Republican appointees before Parson leaves office.

During the press conference, Ransom noted that she grew up in north St. Louis — and that her mother still lives in the Fairground Park neighborhood.

“To make it all the way here just personally, I am still flabbergasted and I am in shock,” she said. “But when you talk about history, I was raised that I can’t cure all the social ills and injustices that are out there. And this appointment won’t do that. But what this appointment does show is that this governor has the courage to make such an appointment. That he has great vision for this state and he knows how great this state is and what it can be.

“And I’m very honored to be a part of that. And I’m very dedicated to showing that I’m worthy of this appointment.”

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.