Albany Law School will delay opening until 11am due to the weather.
In honor of Black History Month, we would like to recognize James
Campbell Matthews, Albany Law School’s first alumnus who can be identified with
certainty as African-American. He is also New York state’s first black judge.
As a candidate for Recorder of Albany, the New York Times in 1895 called him "bright and sharp . . . . intellectually and as a lawyer he rises head and shoulders above many of his white brethren in the same profession."
Through his career, as the state’s most prominent African American,
he lobbied for a bill that would protect the rights of black teachers, which
the governor, Grover Cleveland, signed into law. Two years later, Cleveland,
who by then was the U.S. president, nominated Matthews to succeed Frederick
Douglass as Recorder of Deeds in Washington, D.C., but his nomination was blocked
by Republican senators, who were reacting to news that Matthews actively sought
to influence Albany Republicans to switch parties. Matthews went on to practice
law in Albany for 44 years.
won the election for Judge of Albany's Recorder’s Court in 1895. In that office,
he held one of the highest judicial positions of any African American up to that
Before entering law school, Matthews clerked at a local
attorney’s office, then entered law school in 1868, graduating in 1870 at the
age of 24.
As a candidate for Recorder of Albany,
the New York Times in 1895 called him "bright and sharp . . . .
intellectually and as a lawyer he rises head and shoulders above many of
his white brethren in the same profession."
Only two years later Matthews argued against the City of
Albany’s School Board, and won, forcing the city to desegregate its public
Born in 1844 in New Haven, Conn., he moved with his family to Albany when he was young, attended
Public School 4, and graduated from Albany Academy in 1864. He worked as a
clerk at Albany's Congress Hotel, and later worked as a bookkeeper.
married Adella Duplessis and had a son Charles D. Matthews. Matthews is buried
at his family plot at Albany Rural Cemetery.
Law School's faculty includes an endowed professorship, the James Campbell
Matthews Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, which is currently held by
Professor Anthony Paul Farley.