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California's First Female Black Judge Dies At 96

Southwestern Law School via AP

This 1989 photo provided by Southwestern Law School shows Vaino Spencer, the first female black judge in California and one of the longest-serving jurists in state history. Spencer died of natural causes on Oct. 25, 2016, at the age of 96.

Southwestern Law School via AP

(AP) - The first female black judge in California and one of the longest-serving jurists in state history has died at the age of 96.

Her family says Monday that Vaino Spencer died in her sleep at her Los Angeles home on Oct. 25.

Spencer served 46 years on the bench. She was appointed to Los Angeles municipal court in 1961 and served on the Superior Court and state appeals court before retiring in 2007.

Spencer's niece, Fatimah Gilliam, describes Spencer as "a trailblazer and a self-made woman in an era when there were few opportunities for women and people of color."

In a statement, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye says Spencer was a pioneer for women and minorities on the bench statewide and nationally.