Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Cleveland Celebrity . . . In The House . . .

Judge Jean Murrell Capers
and Lori Johnson
from Lori's Picture
Lyndhurst, OH 2008

She was the first person I spied when I strolled over to the area in the bookstore where I would be signing and discussing my novel, After The Dance. She was a well-dressed, little old lady who'd taken a seat in the very last row and who from a distance put me in mind of the one and only Ms. Rosa Parks. The expression on her face was pleasant and inviting and as I approached her in order to say, "Hello," I immediately recognized that she was someone other than just a curious visitor or a weary senior citizen in need of a seat . . . she was most definitely somone of stature and importance.

I didn't reside in the Cleveland area long enough to learn all its history. I'd be hard-pressed to come up with more than a few names of the areas movers and shakers, African American or otherwise. But even I had heard of The Judge. While still residing in the Cleveland area, I'd following the news story about the senseless theft at her home and I'd shared her sadness and outrage.

So, as I was walking toward the dignified woman seated in the back, who'd from the looks of things, had arrived early for my event, my brain was working over-time trying to process what kept popping to the forefront of my mind--Hmm, she looks an awful lot like that judge I saw on TV years ago. Why on earth would a judge, who has to be well into her 90s be interested in attending my book signing?

Well, turns out it was indeed the retired Cleveland Municipal Court Judge, Jean Murrell Capers, who, by the way is a good-looking, sharp-minded 95 year old and who, believe it or not, had driven herself to my event (smile). To give you a bit of history--in 1949, Capers became the first African American councilwoman for Cleveland and from 1960 to 1964, she was an assistant Attorney General. In the late '70s she was appointed by the then Governor James A. Rhodes to an unexpired term as Cleveland Municipal Judge. Later, she won election to the post and went on to serve a full six-year term.

Anyway, The Judge had indeed come to see me--though I'm guessing my good friend and busybody (LOL) Dr. Sara Wilder must have personally invited her.
The Dear Judge waited until most of the other guest had left before approaching me, offering me her congrats and insisting we pose for a picture together. I volunteered to make it easier on her by coming out from behind the table, but she wouldn't hear of it. According to her, I was the celebrity that day (smile). Well, I don't know about all of that, but for a few minutes, I certainly felt a little larger than life knowing that I was in the company of such a dynamic and still quite spirited trailblazer.
Judge Jean Murrell Capers
and Lori Johnson
from Lori's Pic Collection
Lyndhurst, OH 2008

Thank you Judge Capers for being such a sweetheart, a woman of substance and a role model. I was truly touched and honored by your presence.

(In the coming days, look for me to share a few more of the pics from my Cleveland visit).


Sharon J said...

Thanks for sharing the photos. They look great! Jean Capers led the way for many African-Americans and women who pursued careers in the legal profession.

Lori said...

Yes, Judge Capers is quite the inspiration!