Andree Layton Roaf, mother of former Kansas City Chiefs tackle Willie Roaf, passed away Wednesday after she collapsed in her downtown Little Rock office where she worked as director of federal Office of Desegregation monitoring.
Roaf had some important firsts attached to her career: the first black woman to sit on the Arkansas Supreme Court and then the Arkansas Court of Appeals. But Roaf, 68, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 1999 that motherhood came before her legal work, interests and accolades.
“Being a mother, being a wife, having a family is the best thing that could have happened to me.”
Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, who appointed Roaf to the state Supreme Court in 1995, said he didn’t know her well before her name was suggested to fill the two years left in retiring Justice Steele Hays’ term. So Tucker invited her to the Governor’s Mansion for a meeting and suddenly he knew all he needed to know.
“My mind was made up. I had gone from mildly interested, but no feeling that there was a likelihood that I would actually appoint her, to being absolutely totally sold on it. So she sold me on herself in a very quiet, methodical way. She was an outstanding judge, an outstanding public servant and a wonderful mother.”
Along with being a judge, Roaf was known for being the mother of Willie Roaf, a popular New Orleans Saints offensive tackle who later played for the Kansas City Chiefs.
She was proud of her son – she told reporters she was sad she would never see him play again after he retired in 2006 to go back to school – but she came from a family that went to college and pursued master’s degrees. Her husband of 46 years, Clifton Roaf, a Pine Bluff dentist, served on the Pine Bluff School Board and later the state Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Condolences to the entire Roaf family. Not only was Andree Roaf clearly a dedicated mother and judge, she also broke down barriers. She was the first black woman to hold a seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court and only the second woman on the court.