Curtis Calvin Carson Jr., 91, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge and a civil rights advocate, died of heart failure June 19 at Stapely, a retirement residence in Germantown.

Judge Carson was a senior judge in the court when he retired in 1995. He was appointed to the court in 1971 by Gov. Milton J. Shapp and was elected to successive terms until becoming a senior judge in 1990.

As chairman of the legal redress committee of the Philadelphia Chapter of the NAACP during the 1960s. Judge Carson was involved in legal proceedings and demonstrations that led to the enrollment of African-American boys at Girard College. He also was instrumental in efforts to enable African-Americans to join labor unions and to secure the hiring of African-American drivers by the Greyhound Bus Co.

Born in Cowpens, S.C., Judge Carson was raised by an aunt and, later, by an uncle after his mother died when he was 3. He graduated from Hackensack (N.J.) High School and received a bachelor’s degree from what was then Virginia State College for Negroes.

He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1947, worked for a time in the law office of Raymond Pace Alexander, a prominent African-American lawyer who later became a judge, and his wife, Sadie, then had his own practice for several years.

In 1952, he and two other lawyers became the first African Americans to be named as assistant district attorneys in Philadelphia, serving under District Attorney Richardson Dilworth. Leaving the District Attorney’s Office in 1958, he became an associate in the law office of Cecil B. Moore, and joined Moore in his campaigns for civil rights.

Judge Carson was a former chairman of the Parkside YMCA and an active member of the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, the Martin Luther King Foundation and the Germantown Community Presbyterian Church.

He is survived by sons Curtis III and Gregory; a daughter, Carol Ann, and two grandchildren. His wife of 61 years, Vida Timbers Carson, died in 2007.

A memorial service was held July 9 at Christ Church and St. Michaels in Germantown. – WF