Most Interesting People 2010 - Jean Murrell Capers

Jean Murrell Capers
Retired judge &
city councilwoman | 96

Why she’s interesting … Capers became the first black woman elected to the city council of any major U.S. city when she was elected in Cleveland in 1949. She served as an assistant state attorney general in the 1960s and a Cleveland municipal judge in the ’70s and ’80s. She’s still a practicing attorney and received a Cleveland-Marshall College of Law honorary doctorate of laws degree this year — 64 years after graduating from the school.

Family … Her parents, Edward and Dolly Murrell, were born in 1879 and 1881 respectively and met at Kentucky’s State Normal School For Colored Persons. Her father became a printer and helped her win her council seat by publishing The Informer, a paper that promoted her candidacy. “I had my own newspaper because none of the three [daily] newspapers were for me.”

Causes … During her eight years on council, Capers found city jobs for black Clevelanders and spoke out against segregation in the local taxicab industry.

Champion … Capers won Cleveland’s 1941 tennis championship, organized by the city recreation department. She went on to teach health and physical education at Central High School.

The Roosevelts … In 1943, Capers met Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt at the White House. “I just told him what a great man I thought he was.”

Why practice elder law? … “The elderly are still believing 98 percent of what they’re told, and 96 percent of what they are told is not true.”

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