Longtime Mecklenburg County Judge Shirley Fulton, the first Black woman to win a Superior Court seat in North Carolina, died Wednesday morning.
The cause of death: complications from gall bladder cancer.
Fulton, whose influence stretched from the courthouse to a decades-long list of significant community endeavors, was 71.
At different points during her legal career, the Kingstree, S.C., native worked as an assistant Mecklenburg County district attorney, a District Court judge, a Superior Court judge and a law professor.
For 14 years she served as Senior Resident Superior Court judge, the most powerful judicial seat in the Mecklenburg courthouse. Once again Fulton made history by being the first Black woman in North Carolina to hold the job.
After leaving the bench in 2002, Fulton went into private practice. But she continued to throw herself into highly public community initiatives — from reforms in the courts to public housing and local schools.
She served as president of Queen City Congress, a coalition of inner city neighborhoods, and was former board chair of the Charlotte Housing Authority.
In 2015, she re-donned her judicial robes to preside over a mock grand jury hearing in Raleigh to consider “indicting” Republican legislators who had voted to block the expansion of Medicaid, the major form of federal health assistance for low-income families.
“She was an absolute gem for this community and this court system,” said Carla Archie, the county’s current senior resident judge, and the first Black woman