Franklin D. Cleckley, the West Virginia Supreme Court’s first black justice, has died at age 77, the court announced Tuesday.
The court said in a news release that Cleckley died at his Morgantown home on Monday. No cause of death was given.
A civil rights attorney, Cleckley was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court in 1994 by then-Gov. Gaston Caperton. He spent 27 months on the court and decided not to run for election.
Born in Huntington, Cleckley earned an undergraduate degree at Anderson (Indiana) College and a law degree from Indiana University. He joined the West Virginia University law school faculty in 1969 and returned in 1996 after leaving the Supreme Court.
Cleckley wrote more than 100 majority opinions during his time on the court.
Current Justice Robin Davis was elected in 1996 to fill Cleckley’s seat and was invited by Cleckley to work alongside him in the six weeks afterward.
“He was an honorable and decent man who loved the law and loved the state of West Virginia,” Davis said. “I will miss him deeply.”
In 1990, Cleckley established a nonprofit group to give educational and employment opportunities to former convicts. Two years later a lecture series in his name was established at WVU featuring members of the civil rights and African-American communities.
“His belief in the basic principle that justice is a fundamental right for all people was manifested in his life, his teaching, his writings, and the significant body of judicial work he created in only two years on the court,” Justice Margaret Workman said. “His work will benefit generations of West Virginians.”
The court said funeral arrangements were incomplete.