Great-Grandfather Lynched, Kyra Harris Bolden Becomes First Black Woman to Serve on Michigan Supreme Court

PC: twitter @KyraHBolden

By Caleigh Carlisle

LANSING, MI – Kyra Harris Bolden became the first Black female justice to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court in its 185-year history when she was sworn into office this week.

In a CNN Special Report, it notes the beginning of Bolden’s journey to the Michigan Supreme Court began in Tennessee in 1939 when her great-grandfather, Jesse Lee Bond, was lynched because he asked a store owner for a receipt.

The report said he was beaten, castrated, and thrown into a local river. The coroner’s office deemed it an “accidental drowning” and Bond’s murderers remained free.

The injustice of Bond’s lynching drove Bolden to law school, she said, where she became a lawyer, and in the interview with CNN she said, “Once I realized that was something that happened in my own family, less than 100 years ago, I felt the need to be a part of the justice system.”

When Chief Justice Bridget McCormack retired from the Supreme Court in the summer of 2022, Bolden was MI Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s first choice to succeed her.

According to CNN, McCormack’s campaign for the Supreme Court in 2012 was the first campaign Bolden worked on. Regarding her successor, McCormack said, “The state is getting a smart, savvy, and hardworking public servant as its newest justice.”

Bolden previously served two terms in the Michigan state legislature, leading to complaints that she is too Democrat and too partisan to serve as a fair and impartial judge. She will be the only justice on the court who formerly served as a state lawmaker.

When asked about these objections in the CNN interview, Bolden responded, “All judges and justices have personal points of view, so I don’t think I’m different in that. My job as a justice is to interpret the laws.”

During her swearing-in ceremony, Bolden said, “[I]n just a few generations our family has gone from lynching to law school, from injustice to capital J Justice.” She continued, “It’s amazing that we can make this type of progress for our family.”

In the CNN interview, when Bolden was asked what she would say to people who look at the state of racism in America today and don’t see enough progress, she said, “It’s not enough. It’s absolutely unacceptable that in 2022, we are just now having the first Black woman on the Michigan Supreme Court.”

She added, “We still have to work hard and we still have to try to break down these barriers.”

Bolden concluded, “I know the weight of this job, I know what it means. It’s always been my goal to pull people with me. Vice President Kamala said, ‘May we be the first but not the last’ and that’s the mantra I live by.”

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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