Annie Virginia Stephens Coker, California’s first African-American female attorney

In honor of Women’s History Month from LEGACY OF AMERICAN FEMALE ATTORNEYS (2015 REV.) BY JONATHAN WATSON, LAW LIBRARIAN FOR SOLANO COUNTY LAW LIBRARY.

An Alameda County native, Annie Virginia Stephens Coker has the distinction of being California’s first African-American female attorney.

According to McCarthy (2009), Coker was born on April 7, 1903 in Oakland. Upon receiving her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California, Berkeley, Ccokeroker was encouraged by her father to attend Boalt Law School. In the male-dominated law school, Coker was one of two female students. She received her LLB in 1929 and was admitted to the State Bar of California the same year.

Details about Coker’s life are sparse, though it is known that she practiced law in Alexandria, Virginia for some time. She returned to California in 1939, and began working for Sacramento’s State Office of Legislative Counsel. Among her responsibilities was indexing all pending bills and rendering legal opinions (Beitiks, 2002). Coker worked for twenty-seven years with the legislative counsel upon her retirement in 1966. She passed away in Sacramento at the age of 83 in 1986.

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