Leah Ward Sears, 1955

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Woman Category: LawWoman Tags: Atlanta Women, Justice, and Lawyer

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    The first woman and youngest person to serve on the Supreme Court of Georgia and the first female Chief Justice to serve on the Supreme Court of Georgia.

    Leah Ward Sears was born in Heidelberg, Germany, in an American army base where her father had served. When the family returned to the US, they settled in Savannah, Georgia. Growing up in the deep south, she witnessed civil rights landmarks created by the US Supreme Court, such as declaring the segregated schools as unconstitutional and ending legal restrictions on interracial couples’ marriages. She was inspired by the law and saw it as a path to make a change. After graduating high school, she attended Cornell University and then continued to study law at Emory University School of Law. In later years she received a Master of Laws from the University of Virginia School of Law.
    At age 25, Sears began to practice law at Alston & Bird law firm in Atlanta, where she worked for five years before she was appointed to the city’s Traffic Court. At the age of 33, she was appointed as a Superior Court judge, becoming the first African-American woman to serve in this position in Georgia. In 1992, she became the youngest person to be appointed as a state Supreme Court justice, and 12 years later, she became the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of the Court.
    After the four-year term, Ward Sears resigned from court and returned to private legal practice, in addition to teaching law courses at several academic institutes. Over the years, she served on boards and committees of various organizations. She founded the Battered Women’s Project of Columbus, Georgia, and was the first president of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys.

    “I wanted to make the laws reflect our ideals and ideas in this democracy that is America”

    “I wanted to make the laws reflect our ideals and ideas in this democracy that is America”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She was the first black cheerleader at her High School.
    • She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority at Cornell.
    • She married twice and have two children.
    • Her life story is detailed in the book “Justice Leah Ward Sears: Seizing Serendipity.”
    • She had been twice on the shortlist for the US Supreme Court.
  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Her biography


    * NAACP award for community service
    * Trumpet Award-Law (2006)

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  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Woman Tags: Atlanta Women, Justice, Lawyer

    Civility, compromise and the zax | Leah Ward Sears | TEDxEmory

    This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences.
    American discourse has become so toxic that it has become counterproductive. How consistently is your own expression tolerant, even-handed and fair?

    Leah Ward Sears served as the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, as well as chair of the Judicial Council of Georgia from 2005 to 2009. Sears, at the time of her appointment, was both the youngest representative and first female justice to occupy a seat in the Supreme Court of Georgia. Further, when elected as chief justice, Sears became the first African American chief justice to serve a state supreme court anywhere in the nation. Before serving as a judge, Sears graduated from Emory University School of Law and pursued work as an attorney. She was later elected as Superior Court Judge, the youngest individual ever elected to this position in Georgia.

    About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

  • Photo credit - courtesy of Justice Leah Ward Sears

  • Citations and Additional References:
    Wikipedia page.
    SGR website.
    An article on GPB News website.