Nadine Ramsey Feature Story

As a young girl growing up in the Lower 9th Ward, Nadine Ramsey watched trials and court shows and knew that that law was her destiny. No matter the obstacles that stood in her way. She simply knew she would be a lawyer.

Ramsey born in October 1955 is the oldest of two daughters of Alton Ramsey, a laborer on the riverfront who was active in the union, and Elonia Copelin, a telephone operator. Both sides of the family hailed from the Lower 9th Ward.

Ramsey said she started thinking about becoming a lawyer while she was a student at Holy Angels Academy. The nuns taught her about public service, she said, and placed her on a college track.

She later earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Newcomb College, went to Cornell Law School in Ithaca, N.Y., for one year before transferring home to Tulane Law School, where she earned a law degree in 1980. Ramsey and her sister, Ruth, both became lawyers. But unlike her sister, who went off to Washington, and later the Peace Corps, Nadine Ramsey stayed close to home where in 1996, she qualified for the judicial race and won without a fight.

Ramsey’s heralding story is truly inspiring and speaks to young African- American women.

After Katrina, Ramsey found herself one day in Houston, wandering a mall by herself with thoughts of when life in New Orleans would ever return to normal. A stranger approached her out of the blue, telling Ramsey how “peaceful” she looked. The stranger was a New Orleans woman, seeking comfort during a momentary meltdown.

“She started crying, telling me about her situation. She didn’t know I was from New Orleans. I was about to fall out and here was this woman. I thought, ‘If you only knew.’ I had to be there for her, maybe it’s being the oldest of two sisters.”

So Ramsey listened to the woman and comforted her, choosing not to bring up her own heartbreak.

The memory still makes her smile at the idea that a stranger assumed that she had the world on a string, while inside she was grieving.

She credits her strength to her mother, whom she called when she got the news she would be running for Civil Court Judge unopposed.

Ramsey became the sixth woman to serve as a Civil District Court judge.

Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent levee failures shattered her life only a year after she buried her mother and survived a mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis.

In a past article it is stated Katrina killed her grandfather, 86-year-old William Copelin, who had lived in the Lower 9th Ward, and flooded her mother’s Gentilly house, as well as her younger sister’s. Like tens of thousands of New Orleanians, Ramsey lived the post-Katrina nomadic life, going between Washington, D.C., where her husband Craig Peters, a registered nurse, found work after losing his job in New Orleans, and Gonzales, where Civil Court relocated after the flood.

Asked about the long odds against her, she smiled before methodically explaining that the girl from the Lower 9th Ward has struggled against much worse.


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