Ernestine Steward Gray was first elected to the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court, Section "A", on November 6, 1984 to fill an unexpired term. She was re-elected in July, 1986, October 1994, November 2002, and again in November 2014.
A native of South Carolina, Judge Gray received her early education in the public schools of Orangeburg, South Carolina. She graduated from Wilkinson High School in 1964. She attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Louisiana State University School of Law where she received her Juris Doctorate degree in 1976. Judge Gray was admitted to the Louisiana Bar on October 2, 1976. Before Judge Gray's election to the bench, she was engaged in the private practice of law. She also worked with the Baton Rouge Legal Aid Society where she handled hundreds of family law cases. In November, 1977 she was hired by the Louisiana Attorney General, William J. Guste, Jr., to work in the Anti-trust Unit. In December, 1979 she became a trial attorney with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a position which she held until she resigned to become a candidate for judge in the spring of 1984. Active in civic and community affairs, Judge Gray is a member of numerous professional and civic organizations and has served on many boards and committees, many of which have as their mission improving the lives of children and families.
She has served as 57th President of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Past President of the New Orleans YMCA and YWCA Board of Directors and of the National Court Appointed Special Advocates Association. Judge Gray has received national recognition for her work and is in great demand as a presenter and speaker on the local, state, and national levels. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2018 Fellows of the American Bar Association’s Outstanding Service Award; 2013 New Orleans City Business Leadership in the Law Award; 2008 Honorary Membership, Louisiana State University Chapter of the Order of the Coif; 2004 Recipient of Spirit of Crazy Horse Award Reclaiming Youth International, 2002 Albert Elias Award for Advancement of Compassionate Care of Troubled Youth, National Council on Crime and Delinquency; 2000 Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, recognition for Achievements that have mad the future safer and brighter for children and families in America’s communities; and the 1995 American Bar Association Franklin D. Flaschner Judicial Award. Judge Gray firmly believes in the strong bond of family and the value of children. Her desire is to provide for each child what she had and what she attempted to provide for her children—-a loving family that supported and nurtured their development with the proper measure of discipline. While times have changed, what children really need and deserve have not changed. Her vision is to help create and enhance a system that truly values our most precious resource—-our children. We value them when we invest in education and recreation, and when we insure that they have decent places to live. She wants to be remembered as being important in the lives of children, not because of her temperament as a stern judge, but as an unwavering advocate for the rights of children. Judge Gray is married to James A. Gray II. They have two children, former State Senator Cheryl Gray Evans, an attorney, and James A. Gray III, a chemical engineer and attorney. Judge Gray and her husband are the grandparents of four grandchildren, Morgan Corine Gray, Moriah Danielle Gray, James Austin Gray IV and Emory Steward Evans.