Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first black woman to be appointed to New York state’s highest court and the first Muslim woman to serve as a judge in the U.S. was found dead Wednesday on the bank of the Hudson River, according to police.
Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam, 65, was discovered unresponsive in the water just before 2 p.m. on the Manhattan side of the river, by the Henry Hudson Parkway near W. 132nd St. — just a mile from her central Harlem home.
Her body was fully clothed with no obvious signs of trauma, and police declined to speculate on the cause of her death. Her body was taken to the medical examiner’s office in Kips Bay, where the exact cause of her death can be determined.
Her husband, who reported her missing Tuesday morning, was brought in to identify the body, sources said.
The Washington native, Abdus-Salaam graduated from Barnard College with a degree in economics in 1974 and went on to receive her law degree from Columbia University in 1977 as a Charles Evans Hughes Fellow.
Sheila Abdus-Salaam was elected to the Supreme Court of the State of New York in 1993, where she remained until 2009. She was serving on the New York State Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York State, before her death. She was appointed to the position by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013.
“As the first African-American woman to be appointed to the state’s Court of Appeals, she was a pioneer,” Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday. “Through her writings, her wisdom and her unshakable moral compass, she was a force for good whose legacy will be felt for years to come.