When Leah Ward Sears joined the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1992, she was not only the first woman on the bench but also the first African American female there.

“I was only 36 years old, and the average age was 60,” said Sears, who served on the court until 2009, including as chief justice from 2005-09 (she was the nation’s first Black female chief justice of a state supreme court in the nation). “At that time, I thought 60 was really old. It was all white men except Bob Benham [who is Black] … and me. It was uncomfortable. … It was difficult.”