Nashville native breaks racial barriers after being elected judge in Davidson County

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton is the first African-American woman to sit on the criminal court bench in Davidson County.

“My mindset is making sure that I’m focused on making sure that I’m administering justice; that I’m doing the right thing, focused on making sure that everybody who walks through the door is treated fairly and with respect,” she told News 2.

Judge Dalton was born and raised in Nashville and graduated Whites Creek High School in 1989 with lofty goals.

“I knew early on that I wanted to be a lawyer,” she said.

Dalton spent four years at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, before she headed north to Ohio where she earned her juris doctor degree at the University of Toledo College of Law.

(Courtesy: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton)

“It was an opportunity for me to be away from the comforts of home and figure out life on my own for a little while and I think that was a very important part of helping me develop as an adult and as a person,” she said.

The reality of being a practicing attorney set in when Dalton returned home to Nashville to work in the district attorney’s office. She said it was an eye-opening experience.

“It came to me when I got that file it wasn’t just about that case,” she recalled. “I’m dealing with people and everything I did was going to have an impact on somebody’s life.”

Dalton worked cases where the lives of many families were destroyed by domestic abuse, and after eight years in the DA’s office, she decided to work the problem on another front.

“I’ve cultivated this talent as a prosecutor and there’s so much more that I can do with that. That was my inspiration for running for judge in 2006,” she said.

(Courtesy: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton)

Dalton went on to break racial barriers as the first African-American woman elected to General Session Court in Davidson County. She was re-elected to a second term in 2014 and she was instrumental in starting a new court dedicated to hearing domestic violence cases.

“A situation where victims and defendants alike have the opportunity to have their cases heard in a timely manner,” Dalton said.

Dalton also blazed another judicial trail last November when Gov. Bill Haslam appointed her to Division II of the Davidson County Criminal Court where she decides cases ranging from simple criminal misdemeanors to first-degree murder and everything in between.

“Let’s talk about people who come into the court system. It’s important for people to come in and see that there is someone that looks like them because it helps them to fell that maybe they understand me,” she said.

Dalton said her presence on the bench is also important for young people so they can see what they can become.

“Whenever I go into the schools and talk to the kids, I love it when they say, ‘You’re a judge?’ Like, ‘Wow, you don’t look like a judge.’”

Judge Dalton will run for election to the bench. Her name is on the May 1 ballot.

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