Juanita Kidd Stout, the first black woman to be elected a judge in the United States, has died in Philadelphia at the age of 79, hospital officials said Saturday.
She died of leukemia in Thomas Jefferson University Hospital on Friday.
A fixture in the Pennsylvania justice system for decades, Judge Stout made history in 1959 when she was elected to a seat on the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Ten years later, she was appointed to Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.
She commanded wide respect among colleagues for braving death threats while taking a tough stand against gang violence in the 1960s. Among her more famous cases was the 1993 trial in absentia of former hippie guru Ira Einhorn, a fugitive now living in France, who was convicted of the 1977 murder of his girlfriend, Holly Maddux.
Ten years ago, Judge Stout made history a second time by becoming the first black woman to be appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. She was forced to retire from the position a year later at the age of 70 but then returned to Common Pleas Court.