Maryland’s First Female Federal District Court Judge; First Female Judge Elected to the Old Supreme Bench of Baltimore City, and First Female Assistant Attorney General
Photo Credit: Weyman Swagger/Baltimore Sun 1982
Profile Summary by Maria Salacuse
Shirley Brannock Jones was not only Maryland's first female Federal District Court Judge, she was also the first female Federal District Court Judge in the entire Fourth Circuit as well as the first female assistant attorney general and the first female judge on the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City.
Born to a civilian Coast Guard worker and sailmaker and a homemaker in Cambridge, Maryland, Jones graduated in 1942 from Cambridge High School. After receiving her associate degree in 1944 from what is now Baltimore City Community College, she received a law degree from the University of Baltimore in 1946. Admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1947, she worked for the state Department of Employment Security until she was appointed assistant city solicitor. She later became a Maryland’s first female assistant attorney general from 1958 to 1959, a judge of the Orphans’ Court, and the first female judge on the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City beginning in 1961.
On May 22, 1978, Present Jimmy Carter nominated Jones to become a Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. After being confirmed by the United States Commission, she received her commission on October 5, 1978, becoming the first female United States District Court Judge in Maryland as well as the entire Fourth Circuit. Jones continued as a United States District Court Judge until her resignation on December 31, 1982. Jones died on May 16, 2019, at the age of 93.
In discussing her career during an interview with The Baltimore Sun in 1982, Judge Jones reflected, “I had it tough, but not as tough as those women lawyers before me. Women couldn’t even belong to the city bar association until 1957. That was an obstacle in your profession.” As Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr., former judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals and the Circuit Court of Baltimore County, and a longtime friend of Jones noted in her 2019 obituary in The Baltimore Sun, "She was an excellent judge and made it easier for the female lawyers who joined her and followed her through the door. ... She opened the door wider for all of them.”
** For more information on Judge Jones, see Frederick N. Rasmussen, "Judge Shirley B. Jones, The First Female Federal Judge in Maryland History, Dies," BALT. SUN, May 29, 2019 and Charles V. Flowers, Making a Case for Women, BALT. SUN, Dec. 5, 1982.
Maria Salacuse is an Assistant General Counsel with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Any views presented in this profile are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of her employer.