More than 51 years after being elected into office as a probate judge in Sparta, Georgia, the honorable Judge Edith Jacqueline Ingram Grant died recently at the age of 78. Serving as a probate judge for more than 36 years is an accomplishment in and of itself, but Grant will be remembered for more than her tenure on the bench. She was also the first female African American judge in the country, elected in Georgia in 1968, in a time and place when overt racism was unfortunately all too common.
Grant was interviewed in 2006 for HistoryMakers and shared some of the life events that led to her eventual election as probate judge. She graduated from college in Georgia with a degree in education in 1963, at the age of 21. Her interest in becoming a judge was piqued in 1966 when her father ran for public office. Members of the black community in Sparta were reportedly told they could work at the polls on election day. However, when the day came, the then-serving judge, a white woman, prevented them from working, using derogatory language and racial slurs.
Two years later, just months after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Grant won the election to become a judge. Probate judges are charged with overseeing estate matters and disputes, helping ensure state laws are followed while also seeking to make sure decedents’ wishes, as specified in valid Wills, are honored. In her 36 years as a probate judge, Grant no doubt handled a variety of probate cases, from the mundane to the complex, from the uncontested to heavily disputed matters.
A pioneer of sorts, serving as the first African American probate court judge in the country, Grant will be missed but her legacy will live on.
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