Remembering Judge LaRita Cooper-Stokes First African-American Female Judge in Hinds County

Councilman Stokes and Judge Stokes at JSU game in October 2022 PHOTOS BY JAY JOHNSON

By Janice Neal-Vincent, Ph.D.,

Contributing Writer,


Hearts are saddened over the death of Judge LaRita Cooper-Stokes who transitioned Monday morning, May 8, 2023.

As a person for the people, she became the first female African-American judge in Hinds County, Mississippi in 2014. Prior to her judgeship, Cooper-Stokes served on the Jackson City Council for Ward 3, resulting from a special election in 2012 after her spouse, Kenneth Stokes, was elected District 5 Hinds County Supervisor. When Cooper-Stokes ascended to the bench, Kenneth Stokes reclaimed his council seat in a special election.

In March of this year, Cooper-Stokes was transferred to a hospital in Houston, Texas after she was diagnosed with pneumonia at St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson.

Upon notification of the judge’s passing, a special call meeting was held Monday afternoon by the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, and a motion was passed to have the flags located at county buildings to be flown at half-staff in deference to Cooper-Stokes.

Television, print and social media shared expressions of kindness from those among Cooper-Stokes’ constituency.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba stated Monday that Cooper-Stokes would long be remembered. “I would like to send my condolences to Councilman Kenneth Stokes and the family of Judge LaRita Cooper-Stokes after her passing this morning. LaRita was a longtime public servant for the City of Jackson and Hinds County. Her service to the community and efforts to make the world a better place from where she stood will be remembered. I am prayerful for the family and friends of LaRita, and the City of Jackson mourns her loss.”

Hinds County Court Judges Johnnie McDaniels and Carlyn Hicks made the following joint statement:

“We mourn the passing of our distinguished colleague and friend, Judge LaRita Cooper-Stokes.” “Judge Stokes served the citizens of Hinds County with integrity, compassion and fairness while serving as Senior County Court Judge. Our prayers are with her family, friends and the entire community of Hinds County as well, as we all remember and honor her life and her distinguished service to others. We are grateful for the opportunity to have served alongside her, and we offer our sincere condolences to the Cooper and Stokes families.” 

Sheriff Tyree Jones of Jackson remarked, “My heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to the family, friends and husband, Councilman Stokes, on the recent passing of Hinds County Judge LaRita Cooper-Stokes. She will always be remembered for her love of people, and she will be sorely missed.” 

The Jackson Public School District extends its deepest sympathy and condolences to Councilman Kenneth Stokes and family regarding the passing of his beloved wife, Judge LaRita Cooper-Stokes. “She was a proud supporter and advocate for Jackson Public Schools. Her legacy of public service will live on through all the lives of those she touched.”

Jackson Advocate’s Alice Tisdale fondly recalls Cooper-Stokes: “I remember her legacy of Christian living. She was the one you could look to for counseling. While she was kind of flamboyant with her hats and all that, she did a good job. She voted for all the people.”

Judge LaRita Cooper-Stokes was 64. Visitation is set for 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Friday, May 19, 2023, at Jackson Memorial Funeral Service (1000 West Woodrow Wilson Avenue, Jackson, Miss.). Funeral Service is set for 10 a.m. at New Hope Baptist Church (1555 Beasley Rd in Jackson, Miss., Saturday, May 20, 2023).

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