Women's History Month: Celebrating CWRU Law Alumna, the Hon. Sara J. Harper

Sara Harper in red dress
CWRU School of Law alumna and trailblazer Sara J. Harper (center, in red) appears near her portrait, which hangs in the CWRU School of Law.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Case Western Reserve University School of Law celebrates the achievements of our distinguished alumnae, including the Hon. Sara J. Harper (CLC ‘48, LAW ‘52). During her notable career in law, Harper broke many barriers and claimed many firsts. Among them:

  • first Black woman to graduate from the CWRU law school;
  • first Black woman appointed to the Ohio Supreme Court (1992);
  • one of the first two women to win seats on the Ohio Court of Appeals (1990);
  • first woman to serve on the judiciary of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, attaining the rank of Major; 
  • co-founded the first victims' rights program in the country; and 
  • Cleveland NAACP president in the early 1980s. 

Harper has been widely recognized for her career successes, receiving such accolades as the Ohio Supreme Court’s Excellent Judicial Service Award and the NAACP’s Unsung Heroine Award.

She has been inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame, the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame and the National Bar Association’s Hall of Fame.

Harper also was honored by Case Western Reserve University through the Trailblazer Project, a portraiture initiative by the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity that honors distinguished Case Western Reserve alumni, faculty and administrators of color and women. Her portrait, along with those of alumni Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Fred Gray, adorns the wall of the law school across from the Active Learning Classroom.