Diploma awarded to Judge Robert Herbert Terrell from Harvard University. Rectangular. Gothic type of print in Latin: "SENATUS [/] COLLEGII [/] HARVADIANI [/] HEADEMICUS..." In wooden frame, circa 1890.
Despite bitter opposition to his appointment from Southern Democratic Senators, Terrell became the first African American judge in the nation's capital on January 15, 1910, a position in which he served until his death in 1925. Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, November 27, 1857, he was educated in DC Public Schools, Groton Academy in Massachusetts, and graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 1884. He taught in DC public schools while working as chief clerk in the office of the auditory of the U.S. Treasury and was principal of the Preparatory School for Colored Youth where he met his future wife, Mary Church Terrell when she accepted a teaching post at the school. He earned his LL.M. from Howard University Law School in 1893 and practiced law in the city from 1892 until 1898, returning to teaching and becoming principal of the M Street High School before becoming a municipal judge and teaching at Howard University Law School. In 1911, he became a charter member of Sigma Pi Phi, the oldest black fraternity in the nation.