STLCC Alum Takes Seat on State’s Highest Court
Thursday, August 5, 2021
Robin Ransom wanted to become a rock star. But her father had other ideas, and steered Ransom down a different path that ultimately led to her appointment to a seat on the Missouri Supreme Court.
Earlier this spring, Gov. Mike Parson selected Ransom to fill a vacant seat created by the retirement of Judge Laura Denvir Stith. Ransom is the fifth woman – and first African American female – to serve on the 7-member bench.
Father Knows Best
While she attended Rosati-Kain High School, her father, LeVert Ransom, strongly suggested that Robin take a few classes at St. Louis Community College to ensure a smooth transition to a four-year college environment.
“My father loved education and wanted to give me every advantage of being successful in college,” Ransom said. “I had taken an advanced placement class in history during my junior year, and that is when my father suggested a few classes at the community college.”
In hindsight, Ransom admits that taking classes at STLCC-Forest Park was a smart move.
“Honestly, even though college was two years away, I was worried about taking on too much in terms of courses, especially if I happened to be far from home,” she said. “It was the best decision I made because I was indeed far away (Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J.) and I was only able to afford to come home for Christmas and summer break. Making sure that I’d had a cushion with earning college credits before beginning at the university gave me the confidence that I could be a successful student.”
Because of the 13 credits earned at STLCC, and six from Saint Louis University, Ransom graduated from Rutgers in three years with a degree in political science and sociology. She also saved a year’s worth of out-of-state tuition.
“The community college is an environment that offers high level educational services at a fraction of the cost to attend four-year institutions,” she said.
And father was right – experiencing the environment at STLCC provided the perfect steppingstone to life at Rutgers.
“I am so appreciative of my time at STLCC because I was able to ease my way into understanding the rigors of college life at a four-year institution by beginning my college journey in a kinder, gentler atmosphere,” she said. “The expectations and standards of the instructors that I had prepared me to always put my best foot forward in coursework, and that if not successful the first time around, always try again. I went to university knowing full well that I could succeed.”
Ransom also credits her STLCC experience for gaining another invaluable skill – discovering her voice.
“Public speaking was strongly emphasized, and that you should speak up and speak out, even if you didn’t know whether your response was correct,” she said. “This was the most important trait that I took to college and I still utilize that characteristic today. I am never afraid to speak out, to question, to take center stage if need be. This is not out of self-importance or cockiness, but out of confidence.”
Brother Also Knows Best
Ransom received her juris doctorate from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, following somewhat in family footsteps. Her aunt, Donna White, was the first attorney in the family. Brother-in-law Dwayne Vaughn also is an attorney, as is her oldest brother, Frederick.
“When I graduated (from Rutgers) in three years, I had planned to use that “fourth” year of college to hang out at home with my parents and to rest after what I considered was such a hard life of constantly being in school,” Ransom said. “My father was not going to have that, fearing that once I took a break from school, that I’d never go back.”
Frederick also had a plan he thought better suited his little sister – nudging her toward a career in law.
“My brother figured that law school would give me a buffer because at the time, I honestly had no clue on what my career path would be. Initially I thought I would be a rock star,” she said. “At this point, I can say that my dream job would probably be an anchor on a sports network or a professional bowler. But the gig that I have is definitely one that has given me great personal satisfaction and I wouldn’t change a thing about where I am in my life.”
Yes, you read that correctly – a professional bowler. Ransom is an accomplished bowler, having rolled a 300 game earlier this year.
“I still watch the video (of the 300 game) when I’m having a bad day to remind me that every now and then, great things can happen when you least expect it,” she said.
Journey to the Bench
Ransom is the second STLCC alum to make history for service on Missouri’s highest court. In 1995, Ronnie L. White, who earned an associate degree from STLCC-Meramec in 1977, was the first African American appointed to serve on the court. White currently serves as a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Ransom worked at the St. Louis County public defender’s office from 1992 to 1995, then at the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office from 1995 to 1996. She joined the St. Louis County Family Court in 1996 as a staff attorney and, in 2002, was appointed a commissioner of its juvenile division. Ransom was appointed circuit judge in St. Louis in 2008 and, in January 2019, was appointed to the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District. She is Parson’s first appointment to Missouri’s highest court. (Press conference photo at right taken by the Kansas City Star)
“I have no doubt that Judge Ransom will add valuable experience, perspective and balance to the court,” Parson said at the press conference announcing her appointment. “I am confident that she will continue to be a fair enforcer of the law, faithfully interpret the law as written and reasonably consider decisions made at the trial and appellate level.”
Chief Justice George W. Draper III added: “Judge Ransom brings years of experience to our bench, with a distinguished career in litigation, family courts and the trial bench before her appellate service. She is passionate about the law, and we welcome the energy, enthusiasm and experience she brings to our bench.”
Remaining True to Self
Despite the historic significance of her appointment to sit on Missouri’s highest court, Ransom is more impressed with the professional relationships she has cultivated over the years and the support she received from those individuals to get the appointment.
“It is a true honor to represent the citizens of the state of Missouri, but I have always been clear that the job has never defined me. It is simply what I do,” she said. “This in no way detracts from the dedication and hard work that I put into the job to succeed. This job is not about your personal accolades and individual success. It is about working to make sure that our judicial system continues to operate on a level of excellence and fairness. With my job comes a lot of responsibility and that is not a charge that I take lightly.”
While her career path did not lead to a singing career, the pro bowling tour or even a sports anchor desk, Ransom embraces who she has become – college graduate, mother of two children, Alex and Ryan, accomplished attorney and judge. She offers this bit of advice.
“I always remember, before putting on that robe, that I am Robin first and foremost. Just a kid from the city of St. Louis who has been blessed beyond measure and to pay that forward by being the kind and respectful person that I was raised to be,” she said. “Always stay true to who you are. I tell my teen daughter Ryan this regularly as she begins to navigate her junior year in high school. Only you know what the best version of yourself really is.
“I’ve been told that I don’t socialize enough, I’m not assertive enough, I’m not hip enough, I’m not flashy enough. At the end of the day, I truly believe that I am the best person that I know. Everyone should feel that way about themselves, always striving to be a better version of yourself tomorrow than you are today.”