Authorities in New York have discovered the body of Sheila Abdus-Salaam, an African-American woman, floating in the Hudson River.
Abdus-Salaam was one of seven judges serving in New York’s highest court, the State Court of Appeals.
On Wednesday, the state police department said that it responded to reports about a body found floating by the shore in upper Manhattan, according to the New York Times.
A police spokesperson said 65-year-old Judge Abdus-Salaam’s body was retrieved from the river and she was pronounced dead a short while later by paramedics. Officers found no sign of trauma to the body and she was fully clothed.
And while there were no signs of foul play, authorities say they have launched an investigation in to unraveling the circumstances surrounding her death.
Born Sheila Turner, in Washington, D.C., to poor working class parents in a family of nine, Abdus-Salaam took her last name, which she answered to for much of her professional career, from her first husband.
Her personal research about her family revealed that her great grandfather was a slave in Virginia. She studied law at Columbia University, where she and former United States Attorney General Eric Holder were contemporaries.
After graduating as a lawyer, she worked as a public defender in Brooklyn, offering free legal services to people who could not afford to hire lawyers. Abdus-Salaam would later serve as an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State attorney general’s office.
In 1994, Judge Abdus-Salaam became the first female Muslim judge in the United States, when she was appointed to New York’s Supreme Court.
In 2013, following the death of Theodore T. Jones, Abdus-Salaam was nominated by the New York governor to sit on the Appeal Court, which again made her the first Black woman to serve on New York’s highest court.
Abdus-Salaam was thrice married, and her third husband, Gregory A. Jacobs, identified her body.
Reacting to news of her death, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo described Judge Abdus-Salaam as a pioneer with an “unshakable moral compass,” adding that “Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all.”
The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeal Janet DiFiore added in a statement that Abdus-Salaam’s “personal warmth, uncompromising sense of fairness, and bright legal mind were an inspiration to all of us who had the good fortune to know her.”