Violet King

Violet King shakes hands with E.J. McCormick, with whom she articled. (June, 1954). Photographer/Illustrator: De Lorme, Jack, Calgary, Alberta.

Violet King was the first black person to graduate law in Alberta and to be admitted to the Alberta Bar. She was the first black female lawyer in Canada.

Born in Calgary, AB, October 18, 1929
1953 Graduated in Law, University of Alberta
1954 Admitted to the Alberta Bar

These achievements were reported prominently by the daily newspapers of the time in Calgary, by The Calgary Herald and The Albertan, and in Edmonton by The Edmonton Journal.

The International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters gave significant recognition to Violet’s accomplishments. Both the President and Vice President of the organisation, from New York and Detroit respectively, came in person to make a presentation to Violet King in Calgary.

  • Violet’s father, John King, came to Alberta with his extended family in 1911 as part of a group of black farmers relocating from Oklahoma to Alberta. The Kings settled in Keystone (now Bretton) southwest of Edmonton
  • In 1910 the Canadian government mounted a campaign to attract Southern US farmers to settle in Alberta and Saskatchewan. This Canadian plan did not anticipate that black farmers would also accept the invitation. They did, and came to Canada to escape the bigotry and violence that persisted in the American south.
  • John and Stella King, Violet’s parents, moved to Calgary in 1919, other members of the extended King family remained in Keystone.
  • John was employed by CPR as a porter, a job considered secure and respectful. Stella worked as a seamstress.
  • After graduation and admission to the Alberta Bar Violet practiced Criminal Law in Calgary. Later she joined the Federal Civil Service in Citizenship and Immigration at a senior administrative level and was promoted at least twice
  • 1963 – Violet King moved to the United States and took on several executive positions at the YW/YMCA in Newark, NJ, and Chicago, IL.
  • 1976 – Appointed Executive Director of the national Council of YMCA’s Organizational Development Group. She was the first woman named to a senior management position with the American national YMCA.

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