Passing of retired judge mourned by family, friends

 Retired administrative law judge Roy L. Roulhac, 71, succumbed to pancreatic cancer November 1 at his Detroit home surrounded by family and friends. 


A self-taught genealogist, Roulhac was a fifth-generation descendant of slaves from colonial North Carolina and territorial Marianna, Jackson County, Fla. where he was born to the late JY and GeHazel Gibson Roulhac. 

Early on, Roulhac determined that he would work in a profession that required him to wear a suit and tie. His formative years centered on school, where in 1961 he was the first of any of his direct ancestors to graduate from high school, and church, where his gifts for leadership and public oration were sharpened and celebrated. 

In 1970, after attending Edward Waters College, Howard University and Southeastern University, he earned a bachelor of science in business management from Wayne State University. Following four years of night school, Roulhac became only the second African American from his native Jackson County to earn a degree in law when he graduated from University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in 1974.

Roulhac fulfilled his dream to work in a profession that required him to wear a suit and tie during his career as administrative law judge, U.S. Social Security Administration, 2006-13; administrative law judge, State of Michigan, 1977 to 2006; Congressional District Coordinator for Jimmy Carter’s Presidential Campaign, 1976; and assistant Wayne County prosecutor, also in 1976.  His civic leadership roles included president, Association of Black Judges, Michigan Chapter, 1988-89; president, State Bar of Michigan Administrative Law Section, 1989-90; and chairperson, State Bar of Michigan Labor & Employment Section Council.

Relocating to Detroit from Washington, D.C. in 1968, Roulhac was active in every facet of the Detroit civil rights movement. According to former Detroit City Councilwoman Joan Watson, “Roy brought scholarship, stewardship, intelligence and thoughtfulness to the movement. He was committed to social justice, equality, peace, justice and dignity.  But he was not one who sought to have his name called. He was content to serve in the background doing research; drawn toward legal strategy to move people forward.”

An active member and past president of the Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society, Roulhac culminated his 30-plus year family research journey with the 2013 publication of “Slave Genealogy of the Roulhac Family: French Masters and the Africans they Enslaved.” Fittingly, hours before his passing, Roulhac’s daughter represented him at the Society’s 35th anniversary celebration where he received the Margaret McCall Thomas Ward History Maker Award for his work as a stellar scholar, noble researcher and respected author; the Spirit of Detroit Award from the Detroit City Council for exceptional achievement, outstanding leadership and dedication to improving the quality of life and a Certificate of Recognition from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan for his work has an author, historian, and fourth president of the genealogical society.

Roulhac’s daughter, Sheryl Johnson-Roulhac, said, “As his family, we could say that he is gone too soon. However, we are assured that he made the most of the time he had here on this earth. He lived his life to the fullest and didn’t wait for retirement to do it. He achieved his childhood dream of becoming a 'suit and tie man' and established a lasting legacy for future generations to emulate.”

Detroit area residents cherishing his memory include: his daughter, Dr. Sheryl Johnson-Roulhac; partner, Floyd E. Myers; grandsons, Ray (Sharee) Johnson, Daniel (Crystal) McGriff, and Aaron McGriff; great-grandsons, James and Corey Allen; numerous cousins; and a host of friends, colleagues, admirers, and protégés.

A Celebration of Life remembering the Hon. Roy L. Roulhac will be held Saturday, Nov. 15, at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 East Warren Avenue in Detroit. Family hour will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the service scheduled at 10 o’clock.

Family visitation will be held in the East Room, 1300 East Lafayette Street, Detroit, on Friday, Nov. 14, from 5-7 p.m. 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to the Hon. Roy L. Roulhac Endowed Scholarship Fund at the University of Detroit Mercy School Law 651 East Jefferson, Detroit, 48226.

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