Judge Ransom: When you open a door, leave it open for those behind you

Joe Gamm/News Tribune photo: 
Missouri Supreme Court Judge Robin Ransom was the keynote speaker at the 2023 Missouri Legislative Black Caucus Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Program early Wednesday evening, Jan. 11, 2023. Ransom challenged listeners to figure out now what King's dream was in the 1960s and 1970s, but what it is going forward.
Joe Gamm/News Tribune photo: Missouri Supreme Court Judge Robin Ransom was the keynote speaker at the 2023 Missouri Legislative Black Caucus Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Program early Wednesday evening, Jan. 11, 2023. Ransom challenged listeners to figure out now what King's dream was in the 1960s and 1970s, but what it is going forward.

Missouri's Black leaders are raising the ceiling for their successors, State Sen. Barbara Anne Washington, D-Kansas City, told scores of people gathered Wednesday evening in the Missouri Capitol rotunda.

This year, for the first time, the state has five Black senators, she pointed out.

Washington spoke during the annual Missouri Legislative Black Caucus celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Wednesday evening. The caucus celebrated numerous firsts during the event.

The "Keeping the Dream" celebration featured a keynote address from Missouri Supreme Court Judge Robin Ransom, the first Black woman to serve on the court.

"(Ransom) became a judge because ... she's good at making difficult decisions," Washington said. "If you didn't see her get sworn in, you don't know that Judge Robin Ransom has a lot of humor, a lot of seriousness and a lot of heart."

Ransom went to New Jersey to attend college, but returned to Missouri to attend law school, Washington said.

Ransom said her father was on the fire department in St. Louis for 30 years. She said he watched as whites got promoted over him to supervisory roles with substantial salary bumps.

"My father was passed over routinely by the white establishment," Ransom said. "But he was also shunned by black folks. Having served 30-plus years in the department, he retired with the same title that he entered with -- the entry-level position of firefighter."

Her father was eventually diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension and congestive heart failure, most of which he thought were caused by years of stress working for the fire department.

Her father would sit Ransom and her three siblings down to talk about the fire department, she said.

"He wanted us to understand why he stayed on the job," Ransom said. "He never missed a day. He never called in sick. He never went to work late."

Her father felt he was let down.

"Because of his experiences, we were raised to focus on ourselves, our family and our self achievements," she said. "My family did not believe that we could do anything for anyone else until we could help ourselves."

His experiences caused him to shun black groups and organizations, she continued.

But he was keenly aware of the societal climate.

All four of the children became college graduates, but were not parts of any sororities, fraternities or other organizations.

"My father believed others failed to help him, so he taught us to be extremely independent and self-reliant," Ransom said. "That only through our own perseverance and strength would we succeed. That only through our own individual successes could we get others to follow suit."

She admitted her father was "a genius" about a lot of things, but he didn't know everything. He was smart enough to allow his children to figure things out on their own.

"My dad was an advocate that once you walked through a door, you as an individual had an obligation to make sure that door remains open for others to come behind you," she said.

He was a troop leader and coached girls sports teams for 20 years. The girls were able to attend Cardinals games.

"My dad was upset that he never succeeded at what he considered his professional life. But I think he succeeded in his personal life," Ransom said. "Even though he may have missed the mark in some of the ways in which we were raised, he instilled in us a determination and a love of who we are -- not who people want us to be. Not what people think we should be. But who we are."

  photo  Joe Gamm/News Tribune photo: Jewell and Converted perform during the 2023 Missouri Legislative Black Caucus Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Program early Wednesday evening, Jan. 11, 2023.
 
 
  photo  Joe Gamm/News Tribune photo: Members of the Lincoln University Dance Troupe perform during the 2023 Missouri Legislative Black Caucus Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Program early Wednesday evening, Jan. 11, 2023.
 
 
  photo  Joe Gamm/News Tribune photo: Jewell and Converted perform during the 2023 Missouri Legislative Black Caucus Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Program early Wednesday evening, Jan. 11, 2023.
 
 
  photo  Joe Gamm/News Tribune photo: Jewell and Converted perform during the 2023 Missouri Legislative Black Caucus Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Program early Wednesday evening, Jan. 11.
 
 

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