Judge Harold A. Stevens was the highest paid African American judge in New York during the 1960s and 70s. Stevens was also the first African American ever elected to the General Sessions bench.
Stevens was born on October 19, 1907, in Johns Island, South Carolina to William and Lilla Stevens. His father died when he was just three years old. He was then raised by his mother and maternal grandparents.
After high school, Stevens attended Benedict College where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in 1930. After being rejected from the segregated University of South Carolina Law School, Stevens enrolled at Boston College where he became the first black to get an LL.B degree in labor law.
In the 1940s he was a counsel to the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the Provisional Committee to Organize Colored Locomotive Firemen. He also served during World War II. In 1950, he was elected to the New York Court of General Sessions. In 1955, he was appointed by Governor W. Averell Harriman to the New York Supreme Court to fill a vacancy.
Throughout his lifetime, Stevens received numerous awards and honorary degrees of national and international dimension, including the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award from Pope Pius XII, in recognition of outstanding Catholic service. Harold Stevens died on November 9, 1990, at his home in Harlem, New York City.