Jazz Guardian Award

The Jazz Guardian Award is presented annually by Detroit Jazz Festival in recognition of an individual with Michigan ties who, through advocacy, teaching, philanthropy and/or musical achievement, has made an extraordinary contribution to the elevation and perpetuation of jazz.

2014 Robert E. McCabe Guardian Award
The Late Honorable Judge Claudia House Morcom
Champion, Trailblazer, Delegate, Judge, Singer, Disc Jockey, Jazz Enthusiast

Each year, the Festival presents this honor in recognition of an individual with Michigan ties, that through advocacy, teaching, philanthropy and/or musical achievement has made an extraordinary impact and contribution to the elevation and perpetuation of Jazz.

In celebration of the Detroit Jazz Festival’s 35th anniversary, the Guardian Jazz Award has been renamed in memory of Festival founder, the late Robert E. McCabe. We are proud to celebrate one of our own, the late Honorable Judge Claudia House Morcom, who tirelessly dedicated her life to years of service to the citizens of Michigan and the great city of Detroit. Through her global work as a legal professional, an advocate for human rights and education and her passion for Jazz, we venerate the late Judge Morcom’s countless accomplishments and commitment to excellence.

When a young Claudia at age 11 first heard Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunesia” she fell in love with Jazz. Later, it would become her theme song for Hastings Street Jazz, her radio show broadcast from 1998-2003 on 90.9 FM WDTR in Detroit. Claudia’s love for music and entertainment also afforded her a singing career with the Mike Wahls Trio for over 20 years.

Claudia House Morcom received her Jurist Doctorate from Wayne State University School of Law andbecame an associate member at Goodman, Crockett, Eden, Robb and Philo, the nation’s first integrated law firm. A member of the Freedom Riders, Claudia’s love for humanity, pubic service, and her fierce belief in equality would lead her to many other notable accomplishments such as Founding Director and first Program Director of the Detroit Neighborhood Legal Services; Center for Constitutional Rights Award, Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for her life achievements for justice and civil rights, the State of Michigan’s “Champion of Justice” and “Life Achievement” Award, and an induction into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.

A trailblazer in the legal field, Judge Morcom received the coveted Black Women’s Lawyers first“Harriet Tubman” Award to honor her “crusade for equal rights and justice” and for her work with the National Consortiums and Task Force on Race and Gender Bias in the courts. Claudia H. Morcom passionately served as an Administrative Law Judge for the State of Michigan, Department of Labor, and as a Wayne County Circuit Court Judge until her retirement in 1998.

Her professional and leisurely travels took her to Cuba, Paris, Nicaragua, Granada, Egypt, Tel Aviv,Ramallah, Argentina, China, South Africa, and Vietnam to name a few. A friend to major international and national Jazz artists and musicians, Morcom attended over 26 Jazz cruises and countless Jazz festivals. She joyfully served as mistress of ceremony for the Detroit Jazz Festival and as a lifetime advocate for Jazz music education in the Detroit Public Schools. Winner of the Jazz Network Foundation “Preserving Jazz” Award, the late Honorable Judge Claudia H. Morcom remained a dedicated member of the Southeast Michigan Jazz Association, the International Association for Jazz Education and the Detroit Jazz Festival Board of Trustees until her recent passing.