Stout, Juanita Kidd 1919–1998
Juanita Kidd Stout 1919–1998
Juanita Kidd Stout started her career as a small-town music teacher. She went on to become the first African American woman to be elected as a judge in the United States. Stout made history a second time by becoming the first African American woman to be appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The former music teacher became fascinated with law, and ultimately became well-known and respected as a judge for her bravery, her passion for justice, and her commitment to education.
Stout was born Juanita Kidd on March 7, 1919 in Wewoka, Oklahoma, to Henry and Mary Chandler Kidd. Having studied piano since she was five years old, she left Oklahoma at the age of 16 to attend Lincoln University in Lincoln, Missouri, for two years. Kidd was forced to leave Oklahoma to attend an accredited school because schools in her home state would not admit African Americans. After earning a music degree from the University of Iowa in 1939, she taught music at Booker T. Washington High School in Seminole, Oklahoma. She then taught at Sand Springs, near Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she met her future husband, Charles Otis Stout. He was a history and Spanish teacher and boys’ counselor there. Because she weighed only 88 pounds and was smaller than many of her students, Kidd sent her unruly pupils to Stout for discipline. For a year, the two spent time together outside the classroom, singing, playing piano, and playing bridge. When World War II erupted, Stout went into the Army and Kidd moved to Washington D.C. with a friend and worked as a secretary. Although the couple had never discussed marriage, Stout proposed to Kidd on his first leave from the Army. She accepted, and they were married on June 23, 1942.
Stout began to study law at Howard University, but soon transferred to Indiana University, where her husband was doing doctoral work. She earned her Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Indiana in 1948. Stout remained at Indiana and, in 1954, received a master of laws degree with a specialty in legislation.
It was in Washington, D.C., where Stout’s law career began in earnest. In 1950 she took a job as secretary to
At a Glance…
Born Juanita Stout March 7, 1919 in Wewoka, OK; daughter of Henry and Mary Chandler Kidd; died August 21, 1998 of leukemia in Philadelphia, PA; married Charles Otis Stout (deceased), June 23, 1942.Education: University of Iowa, B.A., 1939; Indiana University, J.D., 1948, L.L.M., 1954.
Career: Music teacher, Booker T. Washington High School, Seminole, Oklahoma, c. 1939-41; music teacher, Sand Springs, Oklahoma, c. 1941-42; administrative assistant, Honorable W. H. Hastie, U.S. Court of Appeals for Third Circuit, Philadelphia, 1950-55; chief, Appeals, Pardons & Paroles Division, District Attorney’s Office, Philadelphia, 1956-59; assistant district attorney, City of Philadelphia, 1956-59; judge, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1959; justice, retired, Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1989; senior judge, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas 1989-98.
Awards: Jane Addams Medal, Rockford College, 1966; inducted into Oklahoma Hall of Fame, 1981; inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame, 1983; Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania, 1988;Gimbel Award for Humanitarian Services, Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1988; Justice of the Year, National Association of Women Judges, 1988; Sandra Day O’Connor Award, Philadelphia Bar Association, 1994; Thurgood Marshall Award, National Bar Association, 1994; honorary doctor of laws degrees: Ursinus College, 1965, Indiana University, 1966, Lebanon Valley Col lege, 1969, Drexel University, 1972, Rockford College, 1974, University of Maryland, 1980, Roger William College, 1984, Morgan State University, 1985, Fisk University, 1989; honorary doctor of human letters degree, Russell Sage College, 1966, Delaware State College, 1990.
William Hastie, a prominent African American lawyer. Hastie was soon appointed by President Harry S. Truman to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia— making Hastie the first African American appellate court judge in U.S. history. Stout accompanied Hastie to Philadelphia, and served as his administrative secretary.
In 1954, Stout began her own private law practice. Two years later, she accepted a position as assistant district attorney for the city of Philadelphia. Stout continued her private practice even after she was promoted to Chief of Appeals, Pardons and Paroles Division of the District Attorney’s Office. In September of 1959, Stout was appointed as a judge of the municipal (county) court by Pennsylvania Governor David L. Lawrence, making her the first African American woman to sit on the bench in Philadelphia. Two months later, she was elected by a two-to-one margin to a ten-year term, becoming the first elected African American female judge in the United States. In 1969, Stout became the first African American woman to be elected to the Common Pleas Court.
In 1963, Stout was sent by President John F. Kennedy to attend the independence celebration in Kenya as a special ambassador. In 1967, Lyndon B. Johnson sent her back to Kenya on a speaking tour. As a participant in a State Department cultural exchange program, she toured six African countries.
During the mid-1960s, Stout garnered national attention for her tough sentencing of juvenile offenders. Because of her stature on the court, she often received death threats from gang members. Stout refused to be bullied, however, and continued to speak out publicly against gang violence. Stout’s reputation as a tough, but fair, judge earned her a feature inn Life magazine entitled “Her Honor Bops the Hoodlums.”
Stout was raised in a family environment that promoted education and achievement. Having earned advanced degrees, she was a staunch advocate for education. “She loved her roots,” one colleague told the Philadelphia Tribune, “She loved her family and was a great admirer of education. When she had a defendant, she would extol the virtues of education, the wonders it could accomplish. She always put that as a requirement for probation.” In the same article, Rev. Shirley Hilton, whom Stout referred to as the “daughter she never had,” agreed. “She never stopped promoting education,” Hilton remarked. “Everyone who passed her way got an earful about the importance of education.”
In 1988, Stout’s husband passed away. That same year, she became the first African American woman in the United States to be appointed to a state Supreme Court. In 1989, having reached the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s mandatory retirement age of 70, she was forced to retire. Stout returned to the Common Pleas Court as a senior judge in the homicide division. In 1993, she presided over the trial in absentia of Ira Einhorn.
Einhorn was convicted of the 1977 murder of his girlfriend, Holly Maddux, and was living as a fugitive in France.
The anteroom of Stout’s courtroom was covered with cartoons. She chose to decorate her walls with legal cartoons instead of the many plaques, awards, commendations and medals that she received through the years. “She (Stout) does not need rewards to reinforce, to give; she is truly a generous person,” Audrey C. Talley, co-chair of the Philadelphia Bar’s Women in the Profession Committee, told the Philadelphia Tribune. “She will do as she has done and will continue to do it without recognition.” Stout received very special recognition in 1981 when her home state of Oklahoma, a state whose colleges refused to admit African Americans, inducted her into its Hall of Fame. She often cited this honor as one of her greatest achievements.
Although modest, Stout did acknowledge her place in history. “Looking back, I guess that 1 have (done historic things),” she told the Philadelphia Tribune, “but when I was doing these things I did not know that I was being a pioneer. I just did them because I wanted to.” Stout has been a role model for other African American women. “There are many African-American women who look to her,” Talley told the Philadelphia Tribune. “Without question, her accomplishments are significant. Her accomplishments are not just significant for the Philadelphia community. She made a number of firsts for the nation.”
Stout’s influence transcends the history books. In a story recounted by the Philadelphia Tribune, Stout was stopped on the street by a woman she did not know. The woman had once served on a jury in Stout’s court, and she told Stout that she had inspired her to switch careers. The woman had returned to college, finished law school, and passed the bar exam. Even those tried, convicted, and given long sentences by Stout thanked her for her legal “insight,” the story said.
Stout’s tremendous success can be attributed to her love for her chosen profession. “Let me tell you one thing,” she told the Philadelphia Tribune, “99 percent of the reason I am working is that I love the job and I think that I can do some good. I cannot understand how a person can work eight hours a day or more at a job that they do not like. I love my job. I just love the law. I enjoy it.”
On August 21,1998, Stout died of leukemia at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. Although she had not heard cases for seven months, she was expected back on the bench in September of that year. Immediately after Stout’s death, she was lauded for her many achievements. Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Mark Aronchick praised Stout in the Philadelphia Tribune as “a giant in our justice system.” In the same article, Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell said Stout was “a true champion for justice and a role model for thousands of Philadelphias.” According to the Philadelphia Tribune, a few days before she died, Stout told her close friend Shirley Hilton, “I’m ready to go home.”
Jet, September 7, 1998, p. 52.
New York Times, August 24, 1998, p. 15.
Newsday, August 24, 1998, p. A33.
Philadelphia Tribune, October 14, 1994; August 25, 1998, p. 1A.
Juanita Kidd Stout
Juanita Kidd Stout
Juanita Kidd Stout (1919-1998) aspired to be a lawyer when few African Americans and few women were in the profession. When Stout was elected judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she became the first African American woman to be elected to the bench. Almost 30 years later, Judge Stout became the first African American woman to serve on a state supreme court, when she was sworn in as an associate justice in Pennsylvania.
Stout was born Juanita Kidd on March 7, 1919, in Wewoka, Oklahoma, the only child of two schoolteachers, Henry and Mary (Chandler) Kidd. From an early age, the value of an education and the importance of achievement were instilled in the little girl. She could read by the time she was three, and when she began school at the age of six, she started school in the third grade. She also began to study piano at the age of five.
Stout was a top student in both grade school and high school. However after graduating high school at the age of 16, she had to leave Oklahoma to find an accredited college that would admit an African American woman. She moved to Missouri and for two years attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City. She later transferred to the University of Iowa where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in music in 1939.
Became a Teacher
At only the age of 20, Stout began her teaching career in Seminole, Oklahoma. She taught grade school and also taught music at the Booker T. Washington High School. She remained in Seminole for two years. Her next teaching assignment was near Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the town of Sand Springs. It was there that she met her future husband, Charles Otis Stout, who was also a teacher and the boys' counselor.
As the daughter of two teachers, Stout believed that in order for learning to occur, there had to be rules and discipline; the students needed to know she was in charge. However, many of Stout's students were bigger than she was, and she sometimes had problems. She started to send her "problem" students to her future husband, and soon, the problem students were few.
Over time, the relationship between the two teachers grew. They spent a lot of their spare time together. However, after a year of teaching together, World War II broke out. Charles Stout went into the Army, and Juanita Stout decided to go to Washington, D.C. with another teacher.
Settled in Washington, D.C.
The two young women found Washington, D.C. more exciting than Oklahoma, and they decided to stay there and find jobs. Stout found employment as a secretary. However, she soon observed that others were given opportunities that she was not. She quit her job, but a promising job lead quickly followed. She learned that the prominent law firm of Houston, Houston, and Hastie was seeking an additional secretary. Since Stout was excellent in typing and shorthand and had a genuine interest in the law, she was hired. She worked directly with Charles Hamilton Houston.
Marriage and Law School
When Juanita Stout and Charles Stout left Sand Springs and went their separate ways, there was no discussion about the future or marriage. However, her future husband tracked her down through their former high school principal. On his first leave from the Army, he went to Washington, D.C. to renew the relationship. The couple married on June 23, 1942. They had no children.
In many interviews Stout gave throughout her life, she reflected that she had wanted to be a lawyer from an early age. Although Stout had "never even seen a woman lawyer, never mind a black woman lawyer," she stated in a 1990 telephone interview with Emery Wimbish, Jr., "it was my dream." In an interview with Ebony, Stout recalled that her husband's response to her dream of becoming a lawyer was "selfless and swift." He used his Army GI educational funds to put her through law school.
Although Stout began her legal studies at Howard University in Washington, D.C., she soon transferred to Indiana University, where her husband was working on his doctorate degree. She earned her law degree from Indiana in 1948 and a graduate law degree in 1954. In 1966, her alma mater presented her with an honorary graduate law degree.
Began Law Career
Stout returned to Washington, D.C., and it was here that her law career truly began. According to Contemporary Black Biography, Stout took a job as secretary to William Hastie, a prominent African American lawyer, in 1950. Hastie was soon appointed by U.S. President Harry S. Truman to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. He was first African American appellate court judge in U.S. history. Hastie asked Stout to accompany him to Philadelphia, and there she continued to serve as his administrative secretary.
In 1954, Stout passed the Pennsylvania bar exam and began a private law practice. Two years later, she accepted a position as assistant district attorney for the city of Philadelphia. A few years later, Stout was promoted to chief of appeals, pardons, and paroles division of the district attorney's office, but still maintained her private practice.
In September of 1959, Pennsylvania Governor David L. Lawrence appointed Stout to fill a vacancy on the municipal court, making her the first African American woman to sit on the bench in Philadelphia. Two months later, she was elected to a ten-year term, beating her opponent by a two-to-one margin. Stout had made history, becoming the first elected African American female judge in the United States. She would serve a ten-year term on the municipal court and was then elected to two ten-year terms on the court of common pleas.
"Tell It to the Judge"
Stout quickly developed a reputation as a tough but fair judge. "She was a strong proponent of education," a colleague shared with writer Sufiya Abdur-Rahman of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "She was outspoken against gang violence, deadbeat dads, the exclusion of blacks from juries—and bad grammar." Attorney John F. Street (who was elected mayor of Philadelphia in 1999), added, "I tried cases in her courtroom, and she was a very, very stern taskmaster. You left that courtroom a better lawyer, a better person, and a better citizen."
During the mid-1960s, Stout received national attention for her tough sentencing of juvenile offenders and gang members. She was featured in a 1965 issue of Life magazine, in an article entitled "Her Honor Bops the Hoodlums." That same year, the National Association of Women Lawyers named Stout the outstanding woman lawyer of the year. The Philadelphia Bar Association noted that she "was a mentor for younger attorneys and an example for all lawyers." However, not everyone was a fan of the judge. She received death threats from gang members and was criticized by some groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.
However, the judge knew she was making a difference. In a 1989 interview with Ebony magazine, she recalled passing down an 18-month sentence on a young gang member in the 1970s. "He was the best little gang leader in Philadelphia," Stout recalled. "He was bright but had gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd."
Three years later, the young man came to her office, to thank her for being tough on him. The young man told her, "The day you sentenced me, I said if I ever got out, I would make something of myself." The young man went on to graduate from college and law school, "and the next time he appeared in Stout's courtroom, it was as her law clerk." The young man eventually established a successful law practice in Philadelphia.
Contemporary Black Biography recounted a similar story about Judge Stout. One day, a woman Stout did not know stopped her on the street. The woman explained that she had been inspired to switch careers after serving on a jury in Stout's courtroom. The woman shared that had returned to college, finished law school, and passed the bar exam.
Many believe that Stout's success is due to her genuine love of the law. She once shared with the Philadelphia Tribune, "I cannot understand how a person can work eight hours a day or more at a job that they do not like. I love my job. I just love the law. I enjoy it." When she received the Henry G. Bennett Distinguished Service Award in 1980, she was described as a "tireless and relentless public servant … a champion of justice."
Appointed to State Supreme Court
In January of 1988, Stout made history a second time. Governor Robert P. Casey appointed her to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. When she was sworn in as an associate justice, she became the first African American woman to serve on a state supreme court. That same year, the National Association of Women Judges named Stout the justice of the year. Despite these professional accomplishments, Stout also experienced a personal loss. Her husband passed away in August of that year.
With her achievements, Stout was quick to recall those her influenced her along the way. In Notable Black American Women, Stout remembered her parents, "who taught her the value of education and moral living," and acknowledged "the unswerving support of her husband." Perhaps they inspired Stout's famous quote: "A person educated in mind and not in morals is a menace to society."
A Lifetime of Honors
In 1989, Justice Stout reached the state supreme court's mandatory retirement age of 70 and was forced to step down. She returned to the court of common pleas as a senior judge in the homicide division. She served on this court until her death.
During her career Stout was active in many professional and service organizations and received many honors. Her memberships included the American Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Philadelphia Bar Association, the National Association of Women Lawyers, and the American Judges Association. She also served on the boards of Rockford College, Saint Augustine's College, and the Medical College of Pennsylvania, the first medical school that was established for women. Her abilities and contributions have been recognized by eleven colleges and universities, which have awarded her honorary degrees.
In 1981, a very special event occurred. Her home state of Oklahoma, the place she was forced to leave in order to get her college education, inducted her into its Hall of Fame. Two years later, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame. In 1988, Stout received the Gimbel Award for Humanitarian Services by the Medical College of Pennsylvania and was named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania by the governor.
Her alma maters also remembered her. The University of Iowa named her a distinguished alumnus in June of 1974, and in 1992 Indiana University presented her with the Distinguished Alumni Service Award.
On August 21, 1998, Stout died of leukemia in Philadelphia. Although she had not heard cases for several months, she had planned to be back on the bench in the fall. Posthumous honors followed. In December of 1998, Stout received the Oklahoma Human Rights Award, and in 2002, as it celebrated its 200th year, the Philadelphia Bar Association named Stout as a "legend of the law."
Shortly after her death, writer John Shelley reflected on the impact Stout made during her career. He wrote, "We'll miss this lady… . Particularly the swift and sure justice she handed out to criminals, regardless of race… . The nation could use thousands more like her."
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Stout, Juanita Kidd
STOUT, JUANITA KIDD
Juanita Kidd Stout was the first African American woman to be elected judge in the United States. Before her election to the Pennsylvania bench, Stout worked in the Philadelphia district attorney's office. She later was appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, becoming the first African American woman to serve on that court.
Stout was born on March 7, 1919, in Wewoka, Oklahoma, the daughter of schoolteachers Henry Maynard Kidd and Mary Alice Kidd. She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Iowa in 1939. At that time no accredited colleges in Oklahoma admitted African Americans. Between 1939 and 1942, Stout taught music in the high schools at Seminole and Sand Springs, Oklahoma. In 1942, she moved to Washington, D.C., and worked in a law office, which led to her decision to become a lawyer.
Stout graduated from the University of Indiana Law School in 1948. She taught at Florida A&M University in 1949 and Texas Southern University in 1950. In 1950, she became an administrative assistant to a federal appeals court judge in Philadelphia. She left this position in 1954 and went into private practice. In 1955, she joined the city's district attorney's office, serving as chief appellate attorney.
In September 1959, Governor David L. Lawrence appointed Stout a judge of the Philadelphia municipal court. Stout ran for a full term on the bench in November of that year and was elected, making her the first African American woman to be elected to a judgeship. In 1969, she was elected to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and was reelected in 1979, both times receiving the highest number of votes of the Philadelphia Bar Association with respect to judicial qualifications.
During the 1960s, Stout gained national recognition for her vigorous fight against crime
and juvenile delinquency. She wrote numerous articles about race, crime, and justice, and toured six African countries in 1967, lecturing at law schools, colleges, and high schools.
In 1988, Stout was appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Her tenure was brief, however, because an age limit specified by the state constitution forced her to retire one year later at age 70. Stout returned to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to serve as a senior judge, where she continued to speak out on racial and gender bias in the courts. Over the years Stout gave numerous speeches and was the recipient of many awards. In 1988, she was chosen Justice of the Year by the National Association of Women
Judges. Stout died August 21, 1998, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Brennan, Lisa. 1989. "Stout Forced to Retire." Pennsylvania Law Journal-Reporter (May 22).
Halbert, Marvin R. 1981. "Off the Bench and Off the Cuff." Pennsylvania Law Journal-Reporter (February 23).