Joan Bernard Armstrong, the first woman elected to serve as a judge in Louisiana and the first black person to serve as chief judge of the state’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, has died at the age of 77.
She retired from the bench in 2011 after 37 years. At the time, she was the longest-serving judge in the state.
When Armstrong was elected to the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court bench in 1974, she was the first female and first black woman elected judge in the state. She later served as chief judge of the state’s Fourth Circuit appellate court.
Armstrong graduated from Xavier University in 1963. She taught school by day to attend law school at Loyola University and got her J.D. in 1967. She was elected without opposition to the appeals court in 1984, as that court’s first female jurist. She became chief judge in 2003.
During her tenure on the bench, Armstrong was chairman of the Louisiana Conference of Court of Appeal Judges from 2004 to 2005. Funeral services will be held Saturday for Armstrong at St. Mark Fourth Baptist Church in New Orleans.