Jean Williams in her younger years (family photo)

In late July, I wrote about the passing of a judge and civil rights pioneer, Hon. Jean Williams.

Yesterday, the Arizona Republic ran a great profile of Judge Williams. I’d recommend it for every lawyer, and for every person interested in learning how to live a life committed to justice.

The article is written by Connie Cone Sexton. And it’s linked to a slideshow of Jean Williams’ life.

Williams’ activism in civil rights and her progress as a lawyer and judge tracks the same qualities in our own state. As Sexton reports:

After [Martin Luther] King’s assassination in Memphis, Tenn., Williams moved to Tucson, where she became the first African-American woman to practice law in the state.

“I was warned not to come here,” she said in the ’87 interview. “I was told this was Goldwater country and they would hang me off a cactus bush.”

Hon. Jean Williams, 1925-2011

Her zeal and belief in the law won people over. She became an assistant public defender in 1974 and then a judge on the Tucson City Court in 1975. In 1977, she was appointed a judge to the Phoenix Municipal Court and would serve there for about 19 years.

As her son, a prominent attorney, said of his mother, “She had the urgency of now.” That is a lesson for a movement, for a state, and for each of us.