Chief Justice Lenore Prather, first woman to serve on Miss. Supreme Court, dies at 88

Chief Justice Lenore Prather, first woman to serve on Miss. Supreme Court, dies at 88
Justice Lenore Prather (Source: Miss. Supreme Court)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Lenore Loving Prather died Saturday, April 11, at her home in Columbus. She was 88.

Chief Justice Prather was the first woman to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court, and was the court’s first female chief justice. In that role, she was the leader of the judicial branch of government in Mississippi.

She began her judicial career as West Point Municipal Judge in 1965, and served until September 1972, when Gov. John Bell Williams appointed her Chancellor of the 14th Chancery District of Chickasaw, Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee, Oktibbeha and Webster counties.

She was the state’s first woman chancellor. Gov. William Winter appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1982. She became a presiding justice in January 1993. She served as Chief Justice from January 1998 to January 2001.

After she left the Supreme Court, she served as interim president of MUW from July 2001 to June 2002.

Justice Prather wrote the landmark decisions of Albright v. Albright and Ferguson v. Ferguson. Albright created a list of considerations, now known as Albright Factors, to determine the best interests of the child in parental custody disputes. Ferguson adopted guidelines for equitable distribution of marital assets in divorce, including giving women credit for their non-financial contributions to the family.

Her former colleague, former Chief Justice William L. Waller Jr. of Jackson, called Justice Prather a trailblazer. He recalled her as a mentor and role model. Her accomplishments included numerous firsts for women in the legal profession.

“She served with class, character, scholarship and impeccable integrity.” He noted that she also deserves recognition for her role in the funding and design of the Mississippi Supreme Court Courthouse, the Gartin Justice Building in Jackson.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Memorial Gunter Peel Funeral Home in Columbus is handling arrangements.

Copyright 2020 WLBT. All rights reserved.