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The Hon. Bernice B. Donald made history twice in the ‘80s, first by becoming the first Black female judge in Tennessee, and later becoming the first Black female federal bankruptcy judge in the country. The Mississippi native was born on September 17, 1951.

Donald attended undergrad at Memphis State University in 1974, and earned her juris doctorate degree from the university’s law school in 1979. In 1982, Donald was elected to the Court of General Sessions bench in Shelby County, Tennessee.

In 1988, the U.S. Court of Appeals appointed her as a federal bankruptcy judge for the Sixth Circuit. Donald continued to climb professionally, and in 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed Donald to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee bench.

Donald is currently a U.S. Court of Appeals Judge for the Sixth District after President Barack Obama nominated her in 2010. She was confirmed in 2011.

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