June 22, 2021
Contact: Toni Valenti
New York County Lawyers Association Issues Statement
on the Passing of Judge Cornelius Blackshear
NYCLA and its officers, directors and members mourn the passing of the Honorable Cornelius Blackshear, U. S. Bankruptcy Judge for the Southern District of New York.
Judge Blackshear’s lifetime of public service began when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1959. Upon receiving his honorable discharge, he joined the New York City Police Department, and while he served New York as a police officer, he also attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice, graduating cum laude in 1971 and Fordham Law School, where he was a leader in the Black American Law Students Association, graduating in 1977.
Two years after completing law school, in 1979, Judge Blackshear was appointed as an Assistant United States Trustee for the Southern District of New York, and four years later, in 1983, he became the first African American to be appointed as U.S. Trustee in the bankruptcy system. At the time, Attorney General William French Smith stated, “Mr. Blackshear is an example for us all. in 1951, he came to New York from home in Florida as an unskilled laborer. He put himself through college and law school while a patrolman and, later, a detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department, where he served with distinction.” Two years after that, in 1985, he was appointed as a bankruptcy judge. Judge Blackshear’s public service continued in many ways throughout his service on the bench. He was appointed by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to the Committee on Court Security of the Judicial Conference of the United States. In 2001, he was appointed to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts’ Bankruptcy Judges Advisory Group, and in 2002, he was appointed to its Bankruptcy Court Advisory Council.
“Judge Blackshear was the consummate public servant, having served in the Navy, the New York City Police Department, the Justice Department, and the federal judiciary. He was a renowned jurist, scholar, adjunct professor, speaker, mentor, colleague, and friend. His life and his career have been an inspiration for many, and he will be missed.” said Vincent T. Chang, NYCLA President.
Judge Blackshear was recognized with honors by many groups and organizations. Most notably, in March 2009, the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges named its pathbreaking minority fellowship program in his honor, “The Honorable Cornelius Blackshear Fellowship Program.”
Judge Blackshear leaves behind a large family. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Betty Blackshear, sons Adam, Michael, Greg, Kevin, and Edjuan, their wives and their children, his brothers and sisters, and several nieces and nephews.
About the New York County Lawyers Association
The New York County Lawyers Association (www.nycla.org) was founded in 1908 as one of the first major bar associations in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. Since its inception, it has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.