Judge Belcher is honored with first-ever Glanton Award

Judge Belcher with Willie Glanton and others

Honoring Judge Belcher are (from left) Emily Chafa, Heather Palmer, Romonda Belcher, Willie Glanton, and Brooke Timmer.

The Polk County Attorneys has awarded its first annual Polk County Women Attorneys Willie Stevenson Glanton Award to Judge Romonda D. Belcher of Des Moines. The organization announced the creation of the award in November during an “Evening to Honor Willie Stevenson Glanton,” co-sponsored by the Polk County Women Attorneys, the Iowa Organization of Women Attorneys, Des Moines Chapter of Links, Inc., and the Iowa National Bar Association.

Willie Stevenson Glanton was a woman of firsts who, by age 11, knew that she wanted to be a lawyer and “free up people.” Only the second African American woman admitted to practice law in the state of Iowa, she also became the first African American woman to be appointed a city clerk (1953), assistant county attorney (1955), to serve in the state legislature (1964), and to serve on the Des Moines city council (1980). She worked in private practice, followed by 22 years of service in the Des Moines office of the Small Business Administration. She was an advocate and activist who sought to reach back and help her community. Mrs. Glanton has been recognized with countless awards and honors throughout her lifetime, including being named one of the Ten Influential Black Iowans by The Des Moines Register, and most recently, the American Bar Association’s 2010 Margaret Brent Woman of Achievement Award.

The Polk County Women Attorneys Willie Stevenson Glanton Award will be given each March to coincide with Women’s History Month and Black History Month. Selection is by nomination, and nominees should exemplify Mrs. Glanton’s spirit to help others, reach back, and help his or her community — working toward the goal of improving that community, whether through a commitment to public service, legislative initiatives, professional activities, or community activities. Award recipients will also demonstrate a commitment to advocacy and activism in the spirit of Mrs. Glanton’s devotion to “free up people.”

Judge Romonda D. Belcher was nominated by Emily Chafa, Heather Palmer, and Chinyere Ukabiala.  Judge Belcher’s aspiration to become a lawyer at a young age was driven by her desire to provide equal access to all under the law.  She has spent her entire career in public service, first with the Polk County Attorney’s Office and now as the first African American woman appointed to the bench in the State of Iowa, where she recognizes her position to make a difference in the lives of others.  She is following in the footsteps of Willie Stevenson Glanton, one of her mentors, to “free up people” and trail blaze the way for those who will follow her.  In her new role as a Judge, she continues to exemplify the spirit of Willie Stevenson Glanton by treating those who come before her fairly, with compassion and respect, regardless of background or circumstance.  Judge Belcher is also an accomplished actress and playwright, using her talents to preserve Iowa’s rich civil rights history and the stories of influential African Americans such as Gertrude Rush, Edna Griffin, Evelyn Davis, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Sojourner Truth.