Rebecca Franklin, mother of Judge Kayla Jackson-Williams, returns to her seat after receiving a bouquet of roses in honor of her birthday on Friday at the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia. After watching her daughter become the first Black judge in Boone County history, Franklin said, “She’s amazing. She deserves it. I’m so, so proud.”
Judge Kayla Jackson-Williams is embraced in a hug after being sworn in as the first Black judge in the 202-year history of the Boone County court system on Friday at the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia. “My family is love,” Jackson-Williams said.
Rebecca Franklin, left, puts a robe on her daughter, Judge Kayla Jackson-Williams, while Jackson’s daughter, Makenzie, zips it up Friday at the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia. Franklin said she felt this moment was a special one to witness and that it is “well deserved.”
Judge Kayla Jackson-Williams addresses a crowd of friends, family and colleagues Friday at the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia. “I wanted to be a judge in our county because I wanted to be a change,” she said.
*Kayla Jackson-Williams oversees criminal, civil returns, landlord/tenant, adult abuse and traffic cases. A previous version of this story misidentified what cases Jackson-Williams handles.
In a courtroom filled with laughter and standing ovations, Kayla Jackson-Williams was sworn in Friday as an associate circuit court judge for the 13th Circuit Court.
She was publicly sworn in at the Boone County Courthouse and is the first Black judge in the county's history.
"When I decided to make this run for office, it was because I wanted to make my presence known in another space that did not look like my space," Jackson-Williams said in her speech at the event. "I wanted to have a voice in a space that mattered."
A plethora of family, friends and colleagues watched from the wooden courtroom benches, including her former law school professor and campaign treasurer Bob Bailey.
"This is an emotional experience because it's a historic occasion: the first Black person, first Black woman, to be a Boone County judge," Bailey said. "She's young. She's energetic. She's vibrant. She's very, very smart. She really does care about both the people who appear before her and her community."
Jackson-Williams replaced Leslie Schneider and now presides over Division 10. Jackson-Williams oversees criminal, civil returns, landlord/tenant, adult abuse and traffic cases. She is also a member of the Supreme Court of Missouri's Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness as well as the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Committee.
"My goals are to treat everyone who comes in front of me with kindness and to show them that I care," Jackson-Williams said. "My goal is to challenge ideologies and thought processes in order to introduce them to new ideas and inject my world into their spaces, and my goal is to honestly force conversations that weren't had before in order for there to be positive change."
Jackson-Williams has been serving on the bench since Jan 3. She received 51% of the total votes in the Aug. 2 primary and won an uncontested race in November. Associate circuit court judges in Missouri serve regular terms of four years.
Division 4 Judge Josh Devine described Jackson-Williams as one of his best friends.
"She is one of the few people that I have met ... that is both compassionate and fearless at the same time," Devine said in his speech.
Jackson-Williams' mother, Rebecca Franklin, and young daughter placed her black robe over her shoulders after she was sworn in. In her post-ceremony speech, Jackson-Williams shared quotes from women who are influential to her, from Michelle Obama, to fashion designer Coco Chanel, to singer Beyoncé.
An important influence who was missing at the event was Jackson-Williams' father, who passed away when she was 14. She described him as her best friend.
Jackson-Williams also handed a bouquet of flowers to her mother during her speech.
"I tell her all the time that there's no end to where you can go," Franklin said. "It's only up, so this is just the beginning."