University of Rochester

Local Court Figure Honored with Permanent Exhibit in Hall of Justice

October 29, 2008

"Celebrating Rochester's Rocky Simmons: The Life and Photographs of an African-American Activist," a permanent exhibit comprised of seven photographic panels about the life of Rocky Simmons, will be unveiled at 2 p.m. tomorrow, Oct. 30, in the first-floor lobby of the Monroe County Hall of Justice.

Simmons was the first African American to be a court attendant—our modern-day court deputy—when he began working for Monroe County Family Court Judge Caroline Branch in 1964. Throughout his life, he was well-known for his political activism and his work with young people in the Rochester community.

The public unveiling ceremony is the result of a collaboration between the University of Rochester, the Seventh Judicial District of the State Unified Court System, and the Simmons family. The series of photographic panels draws from an exhibit created by the University's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections and the Simmons Family. It was exhibited last winter and spring in Rush Rhees Library.

"The Simmons family is proud to share the contributions of Rocky Simmons, and it is a privilege for one of our exhibits to be installed permanently in a public place," said Nancy Martin, the John M. and Barbara Keil University Archivist and Rochester Collections Librarian. G. Robert Witmer Jr., former chair of the University's Board of Trustees and a Rochester lawyer, will speak at the ceremony, among other guests.

Among his many community activities, Simmons organized and sponsored a Little League in the city's Seventh Ward. He also provided opportunities for musically gifted youth, as well as beauty pageants and picnics. He is remembered by many for his tireless work on behalf of youth who needed positive adult role models.

Simmons worked in the county courthouse from 1964 to 1988. He died in 1994.

Earlier in his life, Simmons was a player and later manager of the Rochester American Giants, a traveling baseball team in the Negro League circuit. As an avid photographer, he chronicled life and society in Rochester's African-American community during the mid-20th century.

Members of the public are invited to the ceremony, but are asked to reserve a place by contacting the event coordinator, Charles Perreaud, at 428-2024 or