1st Black woman elected to NC Superior Court seat dies at 71

February 8, 2023 GMT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Retired Mecklenburg County Judge Shirley Fulton, who made history as the first Black woman elected to a Superior Court seat in North Carolina, died on Wednesday at age 71.

Fulton died at a Charlotte rehabilitation center from complications related to gall bladder cancer, according to Noell Tin, who was a law partner with Fulton.

A South Carolina native who graduated from Duke University law school, Fulton worked as an assistant Mecklenburg County prosecutor before being appointed in 1987 to a District Court judge seat. She was elected to Superior Court in 1988, and served later as a senior resident Superior Court judge.

Fulton left the bench in the early 2000s and went into private practice. She became a founding partner of the law firm called Tin Fulton, Walker and Owen. She was deeply involved in the Charlotte community, including court reforms, public housing and schools, according to The Charlotte Observer, which first reported her death.

“Lots of people will remember Shirley as a trailblazer, but her legacy is going to be all of the contributions that she made to improve the community,” Tin said in an interview.

Tin said Fulton’s funeral service is Sunday at Johnson C. Smith University.