Vaino Hassan Spencer, the first Black female judge in California, passed away in her Los Angeles home at 96 of natural causes, her family reported.
Born in 1920, she had a brief appearance as a dancer in a Laurel and Hardy movie, circa 1935, along with her father, Abdul Hassan.
The native Angeleno graduated from Polytechnic High School and Los Angeles City College before getting her law degree from Southwestern School of Law in 1952. Passing the bar the same year, she was the third African American woman eligible to practice law in the state. By 1961 the general practice attorney was appointed to the bench by Gov. Edmund “Pat” Brown Sr., and in 1976 to the Supreme Court by his son, Jerry Brown, Jr.
A trailblazer for minorities and women, she cofounded the National Association of Women Judges in 1979, which helped facilitate the promotion of female judges.
She was also a founder of the Black Women Lawyers Association.
With some 46 years on the bench, she was one of the longest serving jurists in California history.
Judge Spencer was married twice, most recently to real estate broker Lorenzo Spencer. Childless, she leaves behind nieces Amina Hassan Ph.D. and Joann Hassan, and a grand niece Fatimah Gilliam.