Leah Ward Sears
Leah Ward Sears was born into a military family in Germany in 1955. Her family eventually settled in Savannah. A graduate of Emory Law, Sears was working at an Atlanta law firm when Mayor Andrew Young appointed her to Atlanta’s traffic court. In 1988, at 32, she was the youngest person ever to win a seat on Georgia’s Superior Court. Her star never stopped rising: when Gov. Zell Miller appointed her to the Georgia Supreme Court in 1992, she became the first woman and youngest member on the court. She was 36.
Thirteen years later, in 2005, Sears was elected chief justice of Georgia’s Supreme Court. No African-American woman in the country had ever served as chief justice of any state supreme court.
She retired in 2009, having been mentioned as a possible nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her honor became the first female chief justice of Georgia’s Supreme Court on March 2, 2005, Today in Georgia History.
Despite their political differences, Sears maintains a close relationship with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.