Jean Murrell Capers, former Cleveland judge and councilwoman, dies at age 104

CLEVELAND-- Jean Murrell Capers passed away Tuesday morning, her court-appointed guardian told FOX 8 News. She was 104 years old.

She died at about 11 a.m. with her doctor, nurse and guardian Vel Scott by her side. Funeral arrangements have not been made.

(Photo courtesy: Cleveland Press Collection and Cleveland Memory Project)

Capers, born Jan. 11, 1913, was a practicing attorney before she became the first African-American woman elected to Cleveland City Council in 1949. She also served as an assistant attorney general for four years.

"I remember her because at 16 years old, and I'm now 84, she was my councilwoman," said Jane B. Sheats, who became the first African-American woman in the United States to be county board of elections chairperson.

At the age of 62, Capers was appointed a Cleveland Municipal Court judge. She was later elected to the same post and remained on the bench until her retirement in 1986, but continued consulting.

"I speak to children all the time and I tell them, first of all that they are smart and they can do whatever they set their mind to; they just have to study and go to school and get good grades, because mediocre grades or just any grade isn't going to do it as far as any profession that you choose to go into," Capers said during an interview in 2015.

Capers, who advocated for the poor, was one of the first members of the Women's Advisory Council of the Women's Division at the former Ohio Bureau of Employment Services, which is now called the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

"When I think about Judge Capers, number one, she was a class act," said Pinkey Carr, Cleveland Municipal Court judge. Carr said Judge Capers encouraged her.

"For me, it was a situation where she was one of my mentors. I just knew I wanted to follow in her footsteps and hopefully, leave my mark in the same manner that she has," Carr said.

Capers was also a city-wide tennis champ. The courts at East 105th Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard are named in her honor.