‘Quiet rebel’: Shirley Fulton, first Black woman elected Superior Court judge in NC, dies at 71

CHARLOTTE — Longtime Mecklenburg County Judge Shirley Fulton has died at the age of 71. She was the first Black woman in North Carolina history to be elected a Superior Court judge.

Fulton died Wednesday morning from gall bladder cancer complications.

Fulton, who was from Kingstree, South Carolina, worked as an assistant Mecklenburg County district attorney, a District Court judge, a Superior Court judge and a law professor.

Current senior resident Superior Court Judge Carla Archie said she was a Mecklenburg County assistant district attorney when she first met Fulton.

“I had no idea that I would become a judge or become even a senior resident but at the time, she always encouraged me to follow my dreams,” Archie told Channel 9.

Fulton, already a trailblazer, was the first Black woman to serve as an assistant district attorney.

“I think she gave those of us who were coming along at that time, a sense of what was possible,” Archie said. “Shirley often described herself as the quiet rebel. I think that was a very accurate description

Fulton had a decades-long impact on the community. Though she left the bench in 2002, going into private practice instead, she still worked on community resources, which included reforms in the courts, public housing, and local schools.

Fulton was born on Jan. 2, 1952. Her father, Jacob Fulton, was a farm laborer, and she had four siblings.

According to reporting from The Charlotte Observer, as children, Fulton and her siblings picked cotton and tobacco before the school bell. She dropped out of college, later beginning law classes at North Carolina A&T and Duke University while she was a single mother to a toddler.

“Our community has lost a giant,” the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district attorney’s office posted on Instagram.

“Judge Fulton always emphasized an unyielding commitment to justice, equity, and fairness throughout her career,” the post reads.

The DA’s office said Fulton was a role model for many, including DA Spencer Merriweather.

“We mourn her passing and extend blessings to her bereaved family, friends, and colleagues,” the Instagram post reads. “We are forever grateful for the indelible legacy she leaves behind for us all.”

To read more about who Fulton was, read the full story from the Charlotte Observer.

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