As we culminate Black History Month, we would like to honor two trailblazing black female attorneys that contributed to the history of the legal practice in the State of California:
Annie Virginia Stephens Coker (1903-1986)
Annie Virginia Stephens Coker was born in Oakland, California. She attended public schools in Oakland. She received her bachelor’s degree in 1924, as well as her law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1929. Coker became the first black female attorney in the State of California when she passed the California State Bar in 1929. Unfortunately, the doors of most law firms in California were not open to black attorneys in the early 1930’s. As such, Coker moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where she maintained a private law practice. Coker eventually returned to California and worked for the State Office of Legislative Counsel in Sacramento.
Schiesl, M. (2015, May 06). Annie Virginia Stephens Coker (1903-1986). BlackPast.org.
Martha Malone Louis (1912-1991)
Born in Palestine, Anderson, Texas. Louis was the first black woman to practice law in the state of California. According to the California State Bar, Louis was admitted to practice law in 1943. Louis made a name and a place for herself in a white man’s world as a criminal defense attorney. “She was a tigress in the courtroom,” Sherman Smith, a then retired Los Angeles judge said in November of 1990. Louis became widely known when she married famous boxer Joe Louis.