Ventura County lost a tireless advocate for justice last month. Retired Superior Court Judge Colleen Toy White served on the Superior Court bench for 23 years before retiring in 2017. She served our community in so many ways, including dedicating time and energy on our Board of Directors at Interface for many years. Her passion for equity and justice was contagious, and her loss is felt deeply by all who knew her. Justice White passed away on August 10, 2021.
Her granddaughter, Megan, is now on staff at Interface, working in the Domestic Violence & Child Abuse Prevention Program, and reflects below on Judge White’s legacy and influence in her own life.
Did your grandmother influence your thinking about equity & justice?
My grandma greatly influenced my thinking about equity and justice. Right before she retired, I got the chance to visit her courtroom and watch her work in the mental health court. She always believed in helping others and helping our community. I got to see firsthand how she treated every single person who came into her courtroom with respect and empathy, and how that made her an incredible judge. She did not come from a life of huge privilege. Growing up, she was a high school dropout with 2 kids. She came from no means and worked her way into an extremely male-dominated field (especially at the time). She understood that not everybody had the resources and privilege to make their way through the world. She was amazing at recognizing a need in the community and helping others. She did that in many ways, just one being a huge part of the creation of the veteran’s court in Ventura County (that was named in her honor).
What was her reaction when you told her you were applying for a job at Interface? And when you got the job?
When I applied for the job at Interface, I had no idea of her history with Interface. We were both surprised when I told her the name! She called me every other day during the interview process because she was anxiously awaiting to see how everything went! When I called her to tell me I got the job, she got very emotional. That was out of character for her! But knowing that I was going to be doing work and providing help in the community that she loved so much meant the world to her. She always sang praises of Interface. Being able to have this job has meant a lot to me during this time of grief because I know it’s something that meant a lot to her.
What do you think her legacy is for our community?
She left behind an incredible legacy in our community. Her story is inspiring, and her kindness touched countless amounts of people. To know her, was to love her, and to love her was a blessing. She left the world a better place than she left it, by paving the way for other women in the justice field, and by creating spaces in her courtrooms that treated people fairly and with respect.