Barbara Merriweather Sims: The Celebration of the Life of an Amazing Woman

A Celebration for the Life of Judge Barbara Merriweather Sims was held Monday, June 18, at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church,15 Fernhill Avenue where The. Rev. Dr. Issac lhiasota, is Interim Pastor.

Mrs. Sims made her peaceful transition on Sunday, June 10, 2018, following a lengthy illness. The daughter of the founders of the Buffalo Criterion Newspaper, Mr. and Mrs. Frank E., . Sr. and Carmelita Merriweather, she was born October 28, 1923, the fourth of four children born to that union. Barbara Merriweather Sims was a trailblazer in Western New York. She attended Buffalo Public Schools.

Her accomplishments were many: •After graduation from the State University College at Buffalo, she became the first African American to pass the Teacher’s Examination first on the 1952. •She attended State University at Buffalo Law School from which she was the first African American woman to graduate. She entered a law partnership with her late husband, William Sims, forming a firm known as “Sims and Sims”, which was the first African American husband and wife law firm. William Sims went on to be Buffalo’s first African American City Court Judge. •Barbara Sims was the first African American member at the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School, where she taught Family Law and Civil Rights Law. She also taught a course entitled: “Law During the Period of Slavery.” While at the University, Barbara was also appointed Assistant to the President for Women’s Affairs and the Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity.

•She was one of the founders of the National Bar Association, Buffalo Chapter, whose name was changed to the Minority Bar Association. •Mrs. Sims served as the first Black woman Assistant District Attorney of Erie County,

• She was a New York Delegate to the National Organization for Women (N.O.W.) Convention in I 966. •She was elected as the first AfricanAmerican woman Associate Buffalo City Court Judge, she became the first African-American, male or female, to run successfully citywide, head to head against a white male opponent.

•She was a member of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority; has served as Vice President of the National Association of Black Women Attorneys; and was also elected President and Vice President of the local Women Attorneys Association of Erie County. •

She is listed in Who’s Who of American Women.

•She was in private practice for over 50 years and served as legal counsel for the Buffalo Criterion Newspaper. • Mrs. Sims, along with other attorneys, would form the law firm of McKelvley, Sims, Davis and and Lazroe, which later became The McKelvey, Sims, Davis Partnership would remain for 25 years, where Mrs. Sims would close out her legal career.

The Honorable Barbara M. Sims is an Uncrowned Queen and has been recognized by city, county, state and national designations, and was the recipient of more than 75 awards for her service to the community, Barbara Merriweather Sims leaves to cherish her memory: a daughter, Sue Cynthia Sims; a son, Frank William Sims; a sister-in-Jaw. Evelyn Merriweather; nieces: Carole Ann Merriweather Booth, Evelyn P. (Albert) Ferguson; Frances J. (Frank) Gist; Brandye Merriweather, Kellye Merriweather, and Khadija Merriweather, Audra C. Gist, Alyna Brown, of Pittsburgh, PA.; and Alexa Merriweather; nephews: Frank E. (La Verne) Merriweather, III; Bruce C. (Denise) Merriweather, Sr., Clifford Charles, Ph.D. of Durham, NC; Robert S. Curry, 111; Chad J. Booth; Brian A. Ferguson; Jeremy S. Ferguson; Jarrett E. Gist, and Bruce C. Merriweather, II of Charlotte, NC; as well as a host of other family and friends.


a later follow up on Sims Obit

Obit Disrespects Legacy of Judge Barbara Sims

The late Judge Barbara Merriweather Sims will always be revered as an icon in the Black community. When she passed on June 10, she left a legacy of struggle on behalf of the civil and human rights of her people.

She was a brilliant woman who made history in the local legal field. She was unafraid to fight racism and discrimination wherever it manifested. And no misguided disrespectful “obituary’ in the White press, can change that.

The write-up in the wake of her death in no way represented this great woman. It was interspersed with negativity in a slick attempt to try to discredit Judge Sims rather than focus primarily on her trailblazing efforts and accomplishments.

It was despicable and cowardly, as Judge Sims is no longer here to defend herself. Even when the article makes a positive historic point , i.e. that Barbara Sims became the first African American woman to serve as an assistant district attorney in Erie County, it was followed up with a somewhat detailed account of why she was reportedly “dismissed.”

In 1968 the Challenger ran a front page story with blaring headlines in support of Mrs. Sims as she fought the powers that be. The “clash” between her and then DA Michael F. Dillon over the prosecution of a 22 year old woman charged with assisting a notorious escaped murderer, had everything to do with Mrs. Sims standing up and refusing to be used in what she felt was the unjust prosecution of another Black person.

Barbara Sims had the backbone to stand up in a position, that no other Black person ever had, and refused to be a part of an injustice. She was a woman of principal above all else. Even near the end of the article a petty, noncriminal incident that was dismissed, was mentioned in an attempt to cast the final disparaging blow on her character.

We categorically condemn the disrespect shown not only to this great woman – our beloved Barbara Sims – but to her family and all those who knew, loved and respected her. -A.B.

*The following obituary, excerpted in part from the June 16-22 Buffalo Criterion who paints a true picture of Judge Sims.