He knew that African Americans were often judged by a different standard and dedicated his life to being a positive example and providing career opportunities for members of the community. Ret. Judge James “Jimmie” Long died Tuesday after a battle with chronic lung disease. The Kappa Alpha Psi brother was 82.
Judge Long served in the Superior Court of Sacramento County for nearly 30 years before retiring his black robe in 2011.
Long was born in Florida on December 12, 1937 and moved to Sacramento with his family as a youth. They settled in Oak Park, where Long graduated from nearby Christian Brothers High School. He later earned degrees from San Jose State University and Howard University’s School of Law.
Back in Sacramento, Long opened a private practice in the neighborhood where he grew up. He was appointed to the bench in 1982 by then Gov. George Deukmejian. In addition to presiding in the courtroom, Long believed it was crucial to make himself available to young people of color, whether it was giving high school students internships that allowed them to see how the court system worked, assisting them in getting into law school, providing opportunities for local McGeorge students to clerk in his courtroom and, after graduation, helping the next generation land internships and jobs at prestigious firms.
He earned a reputation as a respected leader, colleague and mentor.
He was a founding member of the Sacramento Association of Black Attorneys, which is now known as the Wiley Manuel Bar Association, bearing the name of the first African American judge appointed to the California Superior Court. The Roseville Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. presents a Judge James Long Community Service Award. His work and status as a trailblazer also earned him the Nathaniel S. Colley, Sr. Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wiley Manuel Bar Association in 2014 and Judge of the Year honors from the Sacramento County Bar Association in 1998.
Long was presented with a Medallion of Honor by the Sacramento OBSERVER in 2003. In the recognition’s accompanying publication, “Colorful Reflections,” Judge Long gave his reasons for going into law, sharing how he wanted to “do good” and “help people,” particularly African Americans who didn’t historically fare well in America’s criminal justice system. Judge Long also shared how he wanted to be remembered when that last gavel pounded.
“I hope to be remembered as a person and as a judge,” he said. “One who did more right than wrong and who did more good than bad.”
Judge Long was preceded in death by his mother and father, Susie and James Long and his brother, Elton Long, a former criminal justice professor at Sacramento State. He is survived by his sister June and two nephews.
Services for Judge Long are still being solidified, but include a tribute by the Kappas on Saturday and on Sunday, a horse and carriage procession from Morgan and Jones Funeral Home to McClatchy Park and then onto the Superior Courthouse downtown, where a memorial will be held at 2:00 p.m. in the jury parking lot.