Posted: Dec. 7, 2015
DELAWARE DAY 2015
By Celia Cohen
As any Delawarean knows, the day of Dec. 7 will live in history.
It was the date in 1787 when Delaware started the original 13 states on the way to nationhood as the first one to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
To this day, the First State still loves its firsts. Not only that, it is still recording them, 228 years later. In observance of Delaware Day this Dec. 7, here are seven firsts from 2015 in chronological order.
Ken Simpler became the first new Republican in statewide office in 20 years when he took his oath on Jan. 6 as the state treasurer. As deep a Democratic blue as Delaware is, Simpler could keep this distinction for some time.
None of the state's major state courts -- the Supreme Court, the Court of Chancery and the Superior Court -- had ever had a woman as the presiding judge, until Jan Jurden was sworn in Jan. 6 in a private ceremony as the president judge of Superior Court. Not only was Jurden the first woman, but also the first gay presiding judge, or at least the first one people knew of.
Beau Biden was the first Delawarean ever to lie in honor in Legislative Hall, when his flag-draped coffin was brought into the chamber of the state Senate on June 4. After a brief memorial with the vice president present, along with the governor and about 150 other current and past state officials, the chamber was opened to thousands of mourners who filed through.
There was only one other time in state history a Delawarean lay in honor in the seat of government, but it was in the Old State House on the Green in Dover in 1841, nearly a century before Legislative Hall was built, according to research by Rick Bayard, a past Democratic state chair whose lineage goes back to colonial days, and Russ McCabe, a retired state archivist.
John Haslet, a Revolutionary War military leader who was killed at the Battle of Princeton in 1777, was taken to the Old State House to lie in honor as part of elaborate ceremonies to reinter his remains in Dover from Philadelphia.
The first official candidate for 2016 was Kathy McGuiness, a Democrat who paid her filing fee on Sept. 4 to run for lieutenant governor. In keeping with her voter registration, which has gone from Republican to Democrat to Republican to off-the-rolls to Independent Party of Delaware to Democrat over the years, it should give her ample time if she wants to get out of the race, get in the race, get out of the race, get in the race . . .
The Court of Chancery, the crown jewel of the judicial system with its international reputation for business law, never had an African-American judge until Tamika Montgomery-Reeves took her oath as vice chancellor on Nov. 25 at a private swearing-in. (A public investiture is set for Friday.) She is also the first Millennial to sit on Chancery and only the second woman.
First for Musical Chambers
This first was one people could not have seen coming, the state Senate meeting in the chamber for the state House of Representatives. It happened on Nov. 30, when the state senators were called to Dover for an unanticipated special session and their own chamber was closed for construction. It is expected to be ready when the legislature reconvenes as ever on the second Tuesday in January.
This was only the second time the state Senate met outside its own chamber since the General Assembly moved its operations from the Old State House to Legislative Hall in 1933. Another renovation and another special session had the state senators meeting in the old Kent County Courthouse in 1996.
Family Court First
The Family Court became the first state court to have more women sitting as judges than men -- nine women and eight men -- when the state Senate voted to confirm Natalie Haskins during the special session that was made extra-special when it met for the first time in the House.
How very Delawarean. Two firsts on one day.