In 2022, it is common to see images of black attorneys and judges on television, on the internet, and even in person. We forget that African American attorneys and judges have only populated the legal profession in recent history. In fact, Judge Eugene H. Gadsden became Chatham County’s first Superior Court judge in 1979, about the time I was graduating from A. E. Beach High School. A Savannah native, Judge Gadsden graduated from Georgia State Industrial College (now Savannah State University) and received his law degree from North Carolina Central University. In 1965, he became the first black member of the Savannah Bar Association, just over fifty years ago. In the same year, the Selma to Montgomery protest marches occurred.
Judge Gadsden served as an assistant county attorney for Chatham County from 1968-1974, presided as judge for the first time in Recorder’s Court in 1971, served as president of the Legal Aid Society, and was later named president of the Legal Aid Office here in Savannah. I had the opportunity to see Judge Gadsden on the bench in the summer of 1985, after my first year of law school, and to meet him after I moved back to Savannah in 1996. He was a principled, dignified gentleman, highly regarded by everyone.
Judge Gadsden was a local trailblazer. He deserves to be recognized during Black History Month, as well as noted for his historic contributions year-round.