The Higher Education of the Nation’s Newest Black Appellate Court Judge

President Obama recently nominated Bernice Bouie Donald for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which is based in Cincinnati. In 1995 she was appointed by President Clinton to the federal bench for the western district of Tennessee. She is the first African-American woman to serve on a federal district court in Tennessee. Her appointment to the appeals bench must be approved by the U.S. Senate.

Judge Donald is a native of Desoto County, Mississippi, where she was the daughter of sharecroppers who had 10 children. She is a graduate of the University of Memphis and the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis.

After law school she worked for Memphis Area Legal Services and then for the public defenders office of Shelby County. In 1982 she was elected to the Shelby County court. She was the first black female judge in the history of Tennessee. In 1988 she was appointed a federal bankruptcy judge, the first black woman to serve in that position.