Philadelphia, September 18, 2012 –Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed City Council Bill No. 120343, an ordinance renaming and designating the Criminal Justice Center as the “Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice”.
“Justice Juanita Kidd Stout had an extraordinary life, and I can think of no better way to honor her memory than to affix her name to the building in our city that represents justice and the rule of law,” said Mayor Nutter. “She received many honors for her esteemed accomplishments: she was a great public servant, a pioneer for women lawyers – especially African-American women – throughout the nation, and a great Philadelphian.
“Justice Stout had a reputation for being tough, but fair. She garnered national attention for handing out tough sentences to gang members and juvenile offenders, but influenced some of them to turn their lives around. Some may not have liked her decisions, but they respected those decisions as being swift and thoughtful. As Mayor, it is my great honor as Mayor to sign this ordinance renaming and designating it as the ‘Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice’.”
Justice Juanita Kidd Stout was born March 7, 1919 in Wewoa, Oklahoma, the only child of school teachers who instilled in her the value of education and the importance of academic achievement. After graduating from high school at the age of 16, she was forced to leave Oklahoma to find an accredited college that would admit an African-American woman. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music in 1939.
She had a brief career as a teacher in Oklahoma before moving to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a legal secretary for Charles Hamilton Houston, a prominent African-American attorney and dean of Howard University Law School. Stout subsequently enrolled at Howard Law School, later transferring to Indiana University where she obtained her law degree in 1948.
Justice Stout came to Philadelphia in 1950 where she served as Attorney William Hastie’s administrative secretary. She passed the Pennsylvania Bar Exam and served in the District Attorney’s Office until she was appointed to the Municipal Court in 1959 to fill a vacancy, making her the first African-American woman to sit on the bench in the City of Philadelphia.
In January 1988, she made history again, when she was appointed to serve on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, making her the first African-American woman to serve on any State Supreme Court in the nation. The following year, she retired from the Supreme Court at the age of 70, but returned to serve in the Court of Common Pleas until she passed away in 1998.