Sheila Abdus-Salaam, who made history as an African-American and Muslim judge, was found dead on the bank of the Hudson River.
Salaam’s body was found on Wednesday floating fully-clothed on the Manhattan side of the river near Harlem. Just the day before, her husband had reported her missing. Police say there were no signs of trauma or injuries that suggest foul play.
Salaam, 65, is the country’s first Muslim judge and was the first African-American woman to serve on New York’s highest court. She was nominated by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the state’s Court of Appeals in 2013.
“As the first African-American woman to be appointed to the State’s Court of Appeals, she was a pioneer,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Through her writings, her wisdom, and her unshakable moral compass, she was a force for good whose legacy will be felt for years to come.”
“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies to her family, loved ones and colleagues during this trying and difficult time,” he added.
Abdus-Salaam, who is from Washington, D.C., graduated from Barnard College and received her J.D. from the Columbia University School of Law. During law school, she was a classmate of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
“Sheila could boogie, but there was a seriousness about her, a strong sense of purpose at a relatively young age,” Holder recalled of Salaam at her swearing-in ceremony for her Court of Appeals appointment. “She never forgot where she came from.”