GV alumna becomes first Black woman to serve on MI Supreme Court


Courtesy / GVNext

Payton Brazzil, Staff Writer

Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed Grand Valley State University alumni Kyra Harris Bolden to the Michigan Supreme Court, making her the first Black woman, and one of the youngest, to serve on Michigan’s highest court.

Bolden graduated from GVSU in 2010, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in English.

Bolden said after touring the university, learning about smaller class sizes and eating a taco bowl from Fresh, her decision was made.

“I came home from the tour, and I had applied to a ton of different colleges, but I told my mom that I’m going to Grand Valley and I did,” Bolden said.

Bolden said she enjoyed her overall experience at GVSU, but especially enjoyed her involvement in her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., in which she served as community service chair. One of her favorite memories was when her sorority collected cans and donated them to a women’s center.

Bolden said she was thankful for the supportive professors at GVSU, including English Professor Kathleen Blumreich, who attended Bolden’s wedding. Bolden said Blumreich helped her personally and professionally.

“There was a point when I didn’t know if I wanted to go to law school,” Bolden said. “There’s that conversation that you have to have with yourself, ‘Is this a good idea?’ And she was one of the people that really encouraged me to go to law school and pursue that.”

After graduating from GVSU, Bolden earned her degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

“It was a very different experience, being in a busy metropolitan area versus a secluded campus,” Bolden said. “Both experiences were very different, but I think they were very good for the place that I was in life.”

Bolden is also the only justice on the bench to have served as a state lawmaker. After UDM’s law school, she worked as a judicial law clerk, a civil litigation attorney and worked on legislation reforming the criminal justice system.

Bolden has always centered her career around justice due to experiences of injustice within her family history.

“When I was at Grand Valley, I was fortunate enough to have my great-grandmother who told me about my great-grandfather, who was lynched in Tennessee in 1939,” Bolden said. “That turned my eye towards being in the justice system and going to law school. Even though that was the direction, of course, you lean on mentors and your family to help you to guide your career, so that’s where Kathleen Blumreich was very helpful.”

Bolden knew she wanted to make the transition into the Michigan Supreme Court. When she decided to run for a justice position, Bolden was in her second trimester of pregnancy.

“I didn’t want my daughter to ever look up at me and think that she prohibited me from an opportunity or that I didn’t do something because of her,” Bolden said. “So, I decided to go for it, pregnant and all.” 

Bolden said she gave birth in the middle of traveling across the state of Michigan, so she took a couple of weeks off. But her first public appearance was when she accepted the nomination six days after having her daughter. 

Bolden succeeded former Justice Bridget McCormack, a Democratic nominee who retired on Dec. 31, 2022. She was sworn in on Jan. 1, 2023 and will serve a partial term until Jan. 1, 2025.

Bolden said she advises current and future GVSU students to find various people within their lives that will act as a support system and a resource in order to reach their goals. She said if it hadn’t been for her mentors along the way, she wouldn’t be where she is today. 

“Find people that you trust to help guide you,” Bolden said. “If someone is in a position that you want to be in, sometimes you just have to say ‘Hey, I want to be in your position. What can I learn from you?’”