Obituary: Dalton A. Roberson Sr.

Retired longtime Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dalton A. Roberson Sr., died Tuesday, Nov. 10. He was 83 and had recently been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Roberson was born in Mount Vernon, Alabama, on May 11, 1937. After graduating from Mobile Training School in Mobile, Alabama, he moved to Detroit to seek work.

Roberson served as a boom operator in the United States Air Force and, after he was honorably discharged, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, where he became a member of the Delta Pi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. 

After a stint with the Michigan Department of Social Services, he earned a law degree from what was then known as Detroit College of Law in 1967. That same year, he married Pearl Janet Stephens.

After law school, Roberson served as an assistant Wayne County prosecutor and assistant U.S. attorney before founding a law firm with Robert Harrison and Bernard Friedman.

From 1972 until 1974, he served as a member of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and the Sentencing Community Alternative Commission.

Roberson was appointed to what was then known as the Detroit Recorder’s Court by Gov. William Milliken in 1974, replacing Judge John R. Murphy, who died in a plane crash.

In 1987, Roberson was elected chief judge of the court. During his tenure as chief judge, the court decided high profile cases such as the Malice Green murder case. In 1992, the National Conference of Black Lawyers named him its Judge of the Year.

After Roberson retired in 1999, he and his wife moved to Diamondhead, Mississippi, where he indulged his passion for golf. The couple returned to Detroit in 2013.

Mrs. Roberson died in 2018.

In recent years, Roberson served as a visiting judge on the circuit court bench.

“I had the great pleasure and honor to argue a number of cases before Judge Roberson — both as a prosecutor early in my career, and later as a defense attorney,”| said state Attorney General Dana Nessel. “He was not only an outstanding judge, but he was a deeply kind, thoughtful and compassionate man who was beloved and respected by all.

“I have admired Judge Roberson throughout my entire career. His death is a loss to his family, to his friends and to all of us who have looked up to him,” Nessel added.

Roberson is survived by his daughter Portia Roberson, son Dalton A. Roberson, Jr., daughter-in-law Jakeema Roberson and granddaughters Avery and Harper Roberson.


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