If you can see one, you can be one.
This is the message local NAACP members had on Saturday to young black women who dream of one day becoming a police officer, lawyer or even a judge.
“Women in Hats Who Still Make a Difference … in the Law,” an online event organized by women in NAACP in Chapter 3049, honored black women who have achieved success in legal professions locally and nationwide.
These included panel members Lori Morgan, a judge on Allen County Superior Court; Rochelle Dickey, a court reporter; Gwendolyn Morgan, a retired attorney; and Barbara Bolling-Williams, attorney and NAACP president. Jackie Smiley, who retired from the civilian division of the Allen County Sheriff Department, and Joyce Van Pelt, who retired from the Fort Wayne Police Department, also recapitulated their careers.
Lori Morgan, one of three candidates running for the county’s next judge, said that after five years of private practice with her mother, Gwendolyn, she was looking for another, better way to serve the community.
That desire led Morgan to the bank in the Supreme Court’s Family Relations Department, where she has worked on divorce, custody, support, and child abuse and neglect cases for 26 years.
“There is an added benefit that I am African American,” she said, adding that when presiding over cases, there is something to strive for.
“It’s challenging work, but rewarding work indeed,” she said. “I really feel like we’re changing people’s lives. I love it. I wouldn’t change it for anything. “
During the virtual meeting, various participants expressed their support for Morgan’s candidacy as a Supreme Court Justice. Governor Eric Holcomb will select the replacement for Judge Charles Pratt, who will retire in May.
Morgan, thanking her supporters, was told that she deserved the enthusiastic support.
“We flock to people not just because they’re colored people, but because they’re well qualified,” said DeLois McKinley-Eldridge, who chaired and moderated the event.
Gwendolyn Morgan reviewed her career that began in nursing. Her desire to communicate more effectively in patient records led her to pursue a Masters degree in English. Interest in the legal aspects of nursing led her to first take a course on the subject and then enroll in law school.
Morgan practiced law for nearly 30 years before retiring a few years ago.
Dickey, who works as Lori Morgan’s court reporter, has an associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree. Your ultimate goal is to open a house halfway to people who have drug problems.
Smiley was sent to Allen County Jail early in her career before she was assigned to the traffic service. Although some male employees doubted her ability to do the job, she proved she could get the job done and retired as a lieutenant in the civil division of the sheriff’s division.
When asked about her greatest challenge in that position, Smiley said she had convinced white male prison guards from the surrounding small towns to treat black inmates with respect.
“Treat people the way you would like to be treated,” she said.
Van Pelt was a registered practical nurse before joining law enforcement. After working in the trucks and narcotics field, she spent most of her time with children in the Safety Village, a miniature neighborhood next to the Public Safety Academy in northeast Indiana. She retired after almost 35 years in the job.
Bolling-Williams applauded their panelists.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing when we all support each other,” she said before remembering her own path into the legal profession.
As a little girl, Bolling-Williams promised to buy all sorts of things for her beloved grandmother as she grew up, including a house. When her grandmother asked how she would afford these generous gifts, Bolling-Williams said she was going to marry a rich man.
Your grandmother suggested that the goal may not work. Did the little girl have a backup plan? After some thought, she did.
“I said,” I’m going to be a lawyer, “Bolling-Williams recalls.
After taking a winding road that included working for a black trucking company in Michigan, she graduated from the Valparaiso School of Law 32 years ago. After two years as a court clerk in Fort Wayne, Bolling-Williams returned to Gary and eventually opened her own law firm.
“It’s been a good trip,” she said, adding that law schooling women have the opportunity to give back to their communities.
Approximately 100 people bought $ 25 tickets to the Zoom event. about 50 registered. Rena Black, head of women on the NAACP’s communications committee, said those who did not attend the virtual meeting likely bought tickets to support the nonprofit even though they were not available to attend.
For the past several years, the series took place in February and honored women who work in politics, social work, and health care, McKinley-Eldridge said. She also asked for suggestions as to which profession should be in the spotlight next.
The timing of the 11th annual local event coincided with an event on the national stage. The 52nd NAACP Image Awards were broadcast on Saturday evening.
Entertainer of the Year nominations were D-Nice, Regina King, Viola Davis, Trevor Noah, and Tyler Perry.