Judson College remembers Justice Janie L. Shores
Justice Janie Shores, celebrated alumna and friend of Judson College, passed away August 9 at the age of 85. Recognized as a “trail-blazer” for Alabama women in legal professions, she held a private law practice, advanced in academia at Alabama law schools, and served at the highest levels of the judiciary.
Shores attended Judson from 1954-1956, earning pre-law credits before entering the Law School at the University of Alabama, where she joined a cohort with only 4 other female students. She served as editor of the Alabama Law Review while a student at UA and graduated with honors in 1959. Shores then entered professional and courtroom environments in a state where women were not permitted to serve on juries until 1966.
Shores became the first female law school professor in the state of Alabama, and one of the first in the south, when she became a professor at Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 1965. In 1974 she became the first woman elected to the Alabama Supreme Court, where she served for the next 25 years.
Howell Heflin, colleague and former U.S. Senator, called Shores a “trail-blazer, a role model, a legend, and yes, a heroine”, in a 2002 speech to the Women’s Division of the Alabama State Bar. Heflin credited Shores with the success of “thousands of women who have profited by the doors she has opened, and helped keep open, in a male-dominated profession.”
In 1993, Heflin recommended Shores to President Bill Clinton for U.S. Supreme Court nomination, and Shores joined the shortlist of candidates for nomination. Though Clinton ultimately nominated Ruth Bader Ginsberg for the seat, he appointed Shores to the State Justice Institute, a private nonprofit entity focused on improving the administration and quality of state courts.
Shores received honorary doctorate degrees from The University of Alabama, Judson College, and Jones School of Law. She was recognized with the “American Heroine Award” by Ladies’ Home Journal in 1984, and as one of the Top Ten Women of 1990 by the Birmingham Business Journal.
Shores announced her retirement from the Alabama Supreme Court in 1998, leaving the bench and a remarkable judicial legacy in 1999.
“During the time she served on the Court,” Heflin said, “Janie never lost sight of the fact that she should eliminate barriers to equal opportunity for women.” Shores accomplished much toward eliminating those barriers in her career, but she also took time to encourage and inspire young women in other ways.
Shores committed to preserving the stories of Alabama women as a long-time board member of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame, housed on the Judson College campus. Shores also spoke at Judson’s 1985 and 1997 commencements, touting Judson’s educational standards and the successes of her alumnae, but also reminding graduates of their opportunity and great responsibility to “make the world a better place”.
“You are understandably nervous about taking this next step in your life, but you are more ready than you may think you are,” said Shores to 1997 graduates. “If you need inspiration to tackle the problems of our world,” Shores said, “inspiration is available right here on the Judson campus.” Referring graduates to the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame, Shores said, “There, you’ll find inspiration from those who came before you.”
Today Judson finds great inspiration in the legacy of Justice Janie L. Shores, who “came before” many young women in legal professions in the state of Alabama–many of whom are Judson alumnae. We are reminded that “mak[ing] the world a better place” is something that we all can and must do, and that our labor is for “all who come behind us.”
A gathering for local residents will be held at St. James Episcopal Church in Fairhope, Alabama on Friday, August 11, at 1 p.m. A memorial service will be held at a later date in Birmingham, Alabama, where Shores lived for over forty years, at a time and location to be announced.