Brenda D. Frazier-Clemons, 78, of Logan Square, who had consecutive careers as a college professor and a Common Pleas Court judge, died Monday, Oct. 16, of congestive heart failure at the Vitas Hospice in Nazareth Hospital in Northeast Philadelphia.
The eldest child of Paris Luster and Mattie Laura Frazier, Judge Frazier-Clemons was born in Philadelphia and reared in Atlantic City, where her family lived. A gifted student, she graduated from Atlantic City Senior High School at age 15.
"Brenda excelled in her educational pursuits," said cousin Carol Zachary-Smith. After high school, Judge Frazier-Clemons earned a bachelor's degree from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.
When her father died, Judge Frazier-Clemons took responsibility for her mother and two siblings, and moved the family to Chicago.
Once there, she pursued a longtime dream to become a teacher. She completed a master's degree in education from the University of Chicago, where she was a Ford Foundation Fellow.
Always a high achiever, Judge Frazier-Clemons won a Fulbright Fellowship and moved to Spain. She earned a doctoral degree from the University of Madrid in 1965. Fluent in several languages, she then launched a successful academic career as a professor and administrator at several universities.
Her longest tenure was at Howard University in Washington, where she served as an assistant professor of Spanish, director of undergraduate studies, and assistant dean for educational affairs in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. While there, she met and married Robert Clemons. The couple had a son, Robert Adam Frazier-Clemons, whom she called "the joy of my life."
She served as an assistant professor of Spanish and language instruction in Rutgers' department of Spanish and Portuguese. Later, she was an assistant professor of Spanish at the University of Dayton in Ohio.
Judge Frazier-Clemons moved back to Philadelphia to care for her ailing mother. After a long career in higher education, she felt she could better serve the community by becoming a lawyer. She finished a law degree at Temple University in 1987.
Judge Frazier-Clemons honed her legal skills by working as a law clerk to Judge Theodore A. McKee in Common Pleas Court. She did internships with the CIA and the U.S. Attorney's Office in the collection unit.
In 1988, she joined the staff of City Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco as chief legislative aide.
"I met her in a vacuum-cleaner store," Tasco said. "I chatted with her. I needed a legislative aide, and she was an attorney. She worked for me until she ran for judge. She was a brilliant woman. Every piece of legislation I wanted to present, she drafted it."
The two wrote legislation intended to remove abandoned cars from the city's streets, end predatory lending, and foster various health initiatives, Tasco said.
"I could rely on her," the former councilwoman said. "When she gave me information, it was always correct. We'd sit and talk, and she came up with ideas that moved us to have legislation for the City Council."
On Feb. 13, 2003, Council passed a resolution honoring Tasco's aide. "Brenda is a highly polished individual who has served the Council and her councilwoman with dedication and commitment," it read. "We wish her well in her judicial endeavor."
To read the resolution, go to: http://legislation.phila.gov/attachments/8887.pdf
Later that year, she ran as a Democrat for election to a seat on Common Pleas Court. Judge Frazier-Clemons served from 2003 to 2014, and became a senior judge at the end of her term. She retired for good in 2015.
The judge was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Leadership Inc. She was active in professional associations related to the bar and was continuing legal education coordinator for Temple University's American Inn of Court, an association of lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals.
Outside the legal community, she served on the boards of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, St. Barnabas Episcopal School in Germantown, and the Dr. Warren E. Smith Health Centers.
"Brenda will always be remembered for her infectious smile that never faded and her constant verbal reminder that, 'My dear, we all are just doing the best we can,' " her cousin said.
In addition to her cousin and son, Judge Frazier-Clemons is survived by a brother and sister and two nieces.
Private services were held Oct. 27.