From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Dearing, Joseph Earl

(born: March 29, 1921  -  died: August 22, 1969) 

J. Earl Dearing was the first African American to be appointed deputy clerk of the police court in Jefferson County. He later won the primary for a circuit court judgeship but died in August of 1969 before the general election. He advocated outlawing segregation in public accommodations after he and his son were not allowed to view Bambi at a movie theater. In 2000, J Earl Dearing was posthumously inducted into the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights Hall of Fame.

Dearing had come to Louisville, KY, in 1950. He had completed 4 years of military service and earned a law degree. He was a graduate of Virginia University in Richmond, VA, and Western Reserve University Law School. Dearing was born in Bedford, VA, the son of Edgar and Lucy Penn Dearing. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army.

In 1957, J. Earl Dearing was the attorney for 12 plaintiffs who sued the Municipal Housing Commission to integrate the housing projects in Louisville, KY. In 1960, Dearing was elected to complete the term of James A. Crumlin as the Kentucky State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Dearing had also served as president of the Louisville Branch of the NAACP. He was the chief prosecutor in the Louisville Police Court. In 1963, J. Earl Dearing was sworn in as a judge of the Night Court Division of Police Court. He was the first African American to become a judge in an integrated city court in the south. In 1968, Kentucky Governor Louie B. Nunn appointed Dearing to the New Kentucky Law Enforcement Council to establish a police-training program.

For more see The Encyclopedia of Louisville, ed. by J. E. Kleber; "M.H.C. adopts plan for integration in public-housing projects," The Courier-Journal, 5/25/1957, p. 3; "Dearing set as N.A.A.C.P. state head," The Courier-Journal, 9/11/1960, p. 18; "Negro gets city police judgeship," The Courier-Journal, 11/20/1963, front page; and "Nunn selects members of police training unit," The Courier-Journal, 6/15/1968, p. B1; "Black History Month: J. Earl Dearing," The Courier-Journal, 02/21/2009, p.83; Joseph Earl Dearing's WWII Draft Card in Ancestry; "J. Earl Dearing is first Negro judge," The Advocate-Messenger, 11/20/1963, p.5; "City Prosecutor Earl Dearing dies," The Courier-Journal, 08/24/1969, p.29.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Bambi (videorecording)
NKAA Source: Encyclopedia of Louisville
NKAA Source: Courier-Journal [Louisville] (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Advocate-messenger (newspaper)

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  Gordon, James and Teresa (siblings)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Dearing, Joseph Earl,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed December 9, 2022,

Last modified: 2022-02-10 18:47:29