The Guardians Association of the New York State Courts, Inc. is saddened to hear on April 13, 2017, of the death of our sister and friend, Hon. Sheila Abdus-Salaam.
Our condolences and prayers go out to the Turner family who have lost in their loved one Sheila, “a sister, aunt and cousin,” that exemplified courage and possessed the strength to break barriers to reach her dreams while maintaining her dignity, values and morals. We further extend our prayers and sympathy to her husband, The Rev. Canon Gregory A. Jacobs.
I personally met Judge Abdus-Salaam at a Grand Council of Guardians Women’s History Month Program in Mount Vernon, New York about a week ago. It was a privilege and honor to have sat next to her as Judge Faviola Soto (Court of Claims), the NYS Courts honoree, shared her spotlight in order to acknowledge Judge Abdus-Salaam as a woman much deserving to go down in women’s history — for her accomplishments in and out of the courts. Judge Soto also shared with the crowd filled to room capacity the story of how Judge Salaam extended herself to make her feel welcome when she was appointed to the bench during a chance elevator meet. The crowd roared with applause as Judge Salaam stood to her feet. For many this was the first glimpse of the first African American woman to sit on the bench of the Court of Appeals, Hon. Sheila Abdus-Salaam.
Those who knew “Judge Salaam” on a personal level are sharing their stories of good times with great sorrow. They remember her kind soft voice and her love for vegetarian meals insisting you don’t go out of your way just to accommodate her. Supreme court officers and support staff at Thomas Street can attest that the judge would pass up in a minute an elevator ride for a quick hike up the staircase and a speed walk during lunch around the Tribeca neighborhood. She could be found somewhere inconspicuously sitting in the crowd at 60 Centre Street attending a Tribune Society or other court sponsored event. Even when she was elevated to the Appellate Division, Judge Salaam considered wherever she worked in the past home. Like all family she would return for special occasions, birthday or retirement events.
It’s hard for many of us to believe she is gone but know in our hearts, that a special place has been prepared well in advance for Judge Abdus-Salaam and she has taken her seat on a new bench in the highest court of all.
Gwendolyn Fuller, President
The Guardians Association of the NYS Courts