Andree Yvonne Layton Roaf was an Arkansas attorney and jurist. A 1996 inductee to the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, Roaf distinguished herself in the fields of biology, law, and community service.
Andree Layton was born on March 31, 1941, in Nashville, Tennessee. The daughter of William W. Layton, a government official, and Phoebe A. Layton, an educator, she grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and in White Hall and Muskegon Heights, Michigan. She had two sisters. She graduated from high school in Muskegon in 1958. Originally intending to pursue a career in the biological sciences, she attended Michigan State University and received a BS in zoology in 1962. While an undergraduate, she met, and subsequently married in July 1963, another student, Clifton George Roaf, who became a Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) dentist. The couple has four children. From 1963 to 1965, she worked as a bacteriologist for the Michigan State Department of Health in Lansing, transferring in 1965 to become a research biologist for the Food and Drug Administration in Washington DC, where she stayed until 1969. In 1969, she moved to Arkansas, becoming a staff assistant to the Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency from 1971 to 1975.
In 1975, she took a job as a biologist with the National Center for Toxicology Research in Jefferson (Jefferson County). But at this time, she decided upon a change in career. She entered the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law in 1975, where she served as member and articles editor on the law review from 1976 to 1978. She graduated with high honors in May 1978 with a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. Roaf was second in a class of eighty-three.
After graduation she stayed at the law school for the 1978–79 school year as an instructor teaching research, writing, and appellate advocacy. Thereafter, in 1979, Roaf went into private practice with the law firm of Walker, Roaf, Campbell, Ivory and Dunklin, handling a variety of matters, primarily bankruptcy, real estate, probate, wills and estates, and domestic relations.
On January 17, 1995, Roaf became the first African-American woman and only the second woman to ever serve on the Arkansas Supreme Court when she was appointed by then-Governor Jim Guy Tucker to succeed Justice Steele Hayes, who had retired. Roaf served until 1996 and, not being eligible to run for the same position on the high court, was appointed by Governor Mike Huckabee to a judgeship on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. After completing four years of service, she was elected as a judge on the Court of Appeals. Roaf served until December 2006. On May 30, 2007, Roaf undertook a new role when she was appointed as the director of the federal Office of Desegregation Monitoring to oversee the desegregation cases in Pulaski County.
Roaf participated in various professional and service organizations, including the Pulaski County, Jefferson County and Arkansas bar associations and the W. Harold Flowers Law Society, and received the 1996 Gayle Pettus Pontz Outstanding Arkansas Woman Attorney award. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from her undergraduate alma mater, Michigan State University.
Roaf died on July 1, 2009, in Little Rock (Pulaski County).
For additional information:
Barrow, Lauren. “Andree Layton Roaf.” Notable Black Women, Vol. 3. Detroit: Thomson/Gale, 2003.
Howell, Cynthia. “Retired Judge Tapped for Office.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 31, 2007, pp. 1B, 5B.
Sandlin, Jake. “Diversity Dons Robe of Justice.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 18, 1995, pp. 1B, 7B.
David O. Bowden
Little Rock, Arkansas