Geraldine S. Hines was a long way from her upbringing in the Segregated South when she retired on Friday. Hines, nearing her 70th birthday, had an illustrious career until her last day on the bench as an Associate Justice serving the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC).

Hines served the state’s highest court as the first African-American woman for the past three years. After she was nominated to the SJC by Massachusetts’ governor in July 2014, she was unanimously confirmed by the Governor’s Council a month later. Hines also holds the distinction of being the first African-American woman to have served on the Massachusetts Appeals Court in 2013 until she was 66-years-old and seated on SJC.

Another first in Hines’ legal career is that she co-founded New England’s first law firm run by women of color. “The lesson from my life as a lawyer,” she said, “you have to have a passion for the work that you do,” Voices of the Bar noted. Hines’ relayed her insight when the Boston Bar Association lauded her with the 2017 Haskell Cohn Award for Distinguished Judicial Service.

Retired justice’s humble beginnings in Mississippi

Hines grew up in Mississippi – born 1947 in Scott and raised in the Mississippi Delta area. She graduated from Tougaloo College in Jackson, MS, in 1968, and attended and graduated the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1971. She received the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s highest honor in 2016.

She was presented the Distinguished Alumni Award.

In 1982, Hines went into private legal practice. She appeared in both state and federal courts respective of administrative, criminal, and labor and family law litigation until 2001. Hines was appointed an Associate Justice of the Superior Court by Governor Paul Cellucci that year.

Nomination to state’s highest court evoked memories of the past

When former Governor Deval Patrick nominated Hines in 2014 to serve on the SJC, she described feeling a flood of emotions. Reflecting on her humble beginnings “as a child of the segregated South and all that Jim Crow represented,” the Boston Globe noted, she expressed having an abundance of words for the day she was experiencing with her nomination.

Before serving the SJC on her last day on Friday, Chief Justice Ralph D. Grants gave special recognition to Hines. He addressed the attributes she brought to the state’s highest court. He cited her wisdom, fairness, passion for the truth, capacity for listening, good sense, grace, humor, and courage.

Justice salutes colleagues on her road to retirement

Hines’ saluted her colleagues who she described as hardworking, thoughtful, and committed to the rule of law. She said her departure from the SJC is without regret. Hines also stated that “there is much to be done to make good on the promise of equal justice for all in our country,” as relayed in a press statement from the Massachusetts Court System.

“I have been at this for 46 years, and it’s been so rich because I have come to it with a passion for justice and for seeing things made right,” Hines told Voices of the Bar in May. While her retirement is mandated by age for state judges, slowing down is not on the horizon for Hines. She intends to travel with her daughter and see the world. She also plans to devote herself to social justice issues.