A Calgary Heritage Moment: Did you Know Canada’s FIRST Female Black Lawyer is from Calgary? -Beckler & Seanna Explain

February is Black History Month, the perfect time to celebrate one of Alberta’s most impactful lawyers: Violet King. Violet was born in Calgary in 1929. Her grandparents moved from Oklahoma to Keystone Alberta, (which we now know as Breton Alberta) in 1911.  

At the time the Kings were drawn to Canada’s federal campaign enticing American farmers to immigrate to the country, however, the government didn’t expect black farmers to ALSO answer the call. When they realized this the Canadian government quickly moved to start discouraging black immigrants to the prairies.  

That didn’t stop Violet King’s parents John and Stella from making Canada their home. Jon began working as a sleeping car porter with the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Kings had 4 children: Violet, Vern, Lucille and Ted.  

Violet knew very young that she wanted to become a lawyer. She attended the university of Alberta and was one of only 3 women of the 142 students in the faculty of law.  

King was one of four students to receive an executive a gold ring – recognizing her contributions to the university. The others included Ivan Head, an advisor to Pierre Trudeau, and Peter Lougheed, the future premiere of Alberta. 

Violet became the first black person to graduate from law school in Alberta and was the only woman in her graduating class. She was called to the bar in 1954 when she then became the first black woman to practice law in the entire country.  

King practiced law in Calgary for several years and later became a judge for the court of appeal in Alberta. In 1963 King moved to new jersey to become an executive director of the Newark YMCA community branch – to help black applicants find jobs.  

She was later appointed executive director of the National Council of YMCA’s Organizational Development Group, making her the first woman named to an executive position with the YMCA. She passed away in 1982 at the age of 52. 

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