Celebration of Life
Judge Joseph D. Roulhac
August 18, 1916 – March 5, 2008
Joseph Daniel Roulhac was born on August 18, 1916 in Selma, Alabama. His father, Robert was a Presbyterian minister and his mother, Minerva, a teacher. Both were born in Jackson County. Before moving his family to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1926, Robert worked as a porter at Daffin’s Department Store on Lafayette Stree. His family moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama when he was ten years of age and then to Thomasville, Georgia four years later.
Education was placed high on the agenda for all of the Roulhac children. Judge Roulhac received his high school diploma in 1934 and his Junior College Degree in 1936 both from Stillman Institute. In 1938 he graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Sociology. While attending Lincoln University, he became a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. Upon graduation from Lincoln University he was asked to remain at Lincoln as an instructor in Sociology while earning a M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1940. After receiving his M.A., he returned to Georgia, to teach at Fort Valley State College. The U.S. Army drafted him in 1942 and within months he attained the rank of master sergeant. He served as Chief Instructor in the Service, Salvage, Railhead, and Graves Registration Schools at Camp Lee, Virginia. Everything went well until he refused to justify the Army’s policy on segregation to his black subordinates. Weeks later, he was shipped to the Philippines as an unassigned master sergeant due to his stand. When he returned to the United States in 1946, he used the G.I. Bill to attend the University of Pennsylvania, earning a Juris Doctor Degree in 1948.
Judge Roulhac moved to Akron, Ohio in 1948. He sold life insurance, door to door, while studying for the Ohio Bar Exam. He passed the Bar Exam on his first attempt, in 1949. Judge Roulhac entered into and remained in private practice until 1957 when he was appointed as an Assistant Summit County Prosecutor, becoming the first Black Prosecutor in the county’s history. After six years he returned to private practice and in May 1967 Governor James Rhodes appointed him as Municipal Judge of Akron. He thus became the first Black Judge in Summit County. Because of his reputation as a wise and fair Judge, he gained elected office first in 1971, and then was re-elected for three full six-year terms. To further attest to his knowledge and skills, a number of his published opinions have become benchmarks in the practice of Ohio Law. After serving twenty years as a municipal court judge, he retired in 1987.
In connection with his legal career and service to the community, Judge Roulhac has received many citations, recognitions, and awards throughout the years. Distinguished Service Awards from community organizations, the Outstanding Legal Leadership Award, several Excellent Judicial Service Awards from the Ohio Supreme Court, and the Saint Thomas More Award presented by Bishop Gilbert Sheldon of the Cleveland-Akron Catholic Community.
Stillman University: The Joseph D. Roulhac Residence Hall
Joseph D. Roulhac Hall was completed in 2000 and is named for Judge Joseph Roulhac, a Stillman alumnus and the first African American municipal judge in Akron, Ohio. The residence hall houses 298 female students and contains two computer laboratories and a food court.
Roulhac Circle Allotment (Akron, Ohio)
A 3-acre site of 10 single-family cluster homes along a cul-de-sac, north of Wooster Avenue between Harmon and Herman Avenues. The Roulhac Allotment residents includes families with two to four children. Residents meet certain requirements, including receiving good house-keeping reports for their current units, which are inspected at least once a year. Potential residents also must have a good relationship with their neighbors and community. And, unless they are elderly or disabled, they must be working or in a job training program. The allotment and cul-de-sac were named after Roulhac at the suggestion of City Councilman Marco Sommerville, D-3. Judge Joseph Roulhac was the first African-American judge and assistant prosecutor in the Akron community credited with opening doors for future judges.
The Akron Beacon Journal editor noted, “The honor extended him is appropriate. He is remembered as a man who cared deeply about the people who appeared in his court and who approached his work with integrity. Roulhac Allotment will be a reminder of the pride he showed in his work and his city and his concern for people, however down on their luck they were.”
Tribute from Rev. Moses Roulhac
Arthington, Liberia, Africa
The Roulhac Quarterly, Spring 2008
Someone wrote: “A Journey forth rejoicing from this dark vale of tears, to heavenly joy and freedom, from earthly care and fear. I hear our saviour calling, that joyful hour has come. The angel guards are ready to guide me to our home. When Christ our saviour shall gather all his redeemed again, his kingdom to inherit, good night till then.”
Judge Joseph D Roulhac has journeyed forth rejoicing from this dark vale of tears, to heavenly joy and freedom, from earthly call and fear also where he can rest eternally. Coz Joe made fruitful imprints during his travel down here. Meeting him for the three days seems a thousand years. I praise the almighty God for granting me the opportunity to have met and talked with such a great man. I will forever cherish those short moments in 2006 July. This was my first time meeting Roulhac's outside of Liberia. In every individual or representative of institutions that the life of Joseph Roulhac touched or imparted upon in one way or the other could make a tribute over the remains of this great man, who has lived such an exemplary life, there would not be enough time for the excellent eulogies he has engendered.
Joseph was a man full of life. If he was involved in anything, he provided his expertise and his service with full dedication. He has been a part of so many institutions in which he worked diligently whether they were big or small. One wondered where Joseph got all the energy.
Joseph's service to the Akron’s Municipal court system stands as a testimony of his commitment, his sense of value and fair play to the many institutions he came in contact with.
I believe as a founding member of the Roulhac Family Association in the United States of America, he served the Association diligently. The expertise, the dedication, the friendly and jovial attitude of Joseph will be missed by all. We would love to have Joseph remain with us yet longer, but we must accept what has happened with the knowledge that we will meet one day. We have lost a good man, but heaven has gained him, let us continue to pray that the soul of Joseph Roulhac and souls of all faithful departed rest in perfect peace and light perpetual shine upon them.
Bye Coz Joe, Bye Judge I’ll meet you at the station.
Walsh Jesuit High School: The Judge Joseph Roulhac's Justice Dialogue Series
The Judge Joseph D. Roulhac Justice Dialogue Series was founded on the principles of Jesuit education, which guide the ministry of teaching at Walsh Jesuit High School. Among the characteristics envisioned for the school’s graduates is a commitment to doing justice, which has a distinctive and important place. Founded in 1998 and named after Akron’s first African-American municipal judge, the series serves as a forum to further the discussion of ethical and moral issues in today’s society.
To date, the series has hosted nearly 20 speakers at Walsh Jesuit, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou, Herman Boone and William Yoast (who inspired the movie Remember the Titans), Morris Dees (an attorney dedicated to suing violent supremacist groups), and Sister Helen Prejean (who counsels death row inmates and was played by Susan Sarandon in the movie Dead Man Walking).