Supreme Court Justice Smith to retire

Published 11:42 am Saturday, January 8, 2011

By BETH CHAPMAN / Community Columnist

After 31 years on the bench, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Patricia M. Smith will retire Jan. 16.  She was our county’s Family Court Judge for 26 years, and is better known here simply as “Judge Patti.”

Appointed to the bench at the age of 26, she continues to be one of the youngest and longest-serving judges in our state.

Elected to the Supreme Court in 2004, she defeated an incumbent and received the largest number of statewide votes.

Smith has a long resume of accomplishments including creating the Developing Alabama Youth Program, the Juvenile Detention Facility and the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Shelby County. She received their National Judge of the Year Award in 2002. She has served on multiple state boards and commissions.


Her family recently held a small party for her when her immediate family, most of her 13 siblings and her mother gathered for the holidays.

Once retired, she plans on spending quality time with her family, particularly her mother. While Smith may retire, she will never stop working.

She worked three jobs to put herself through college and epitomizes hard work and dedication, which are synonymous with her name.

Her years of service will forever be remembered, not only by the record of service that she holds, but the lives that she has touched.

She has received many thank-you notes throughout the years. One from a young man in his jail cell relayed his appreciation to her for trying to get him to make better life choices.

Sitting behind bars, he finally came to see her point of view.

Smith is important in the lives of so many people. It is nothing for her to show up at a sick friend’s house with homemade chicken and dumplings or her world-famous pecan pies.

She still refuses to leave a party without helping wash the dishes.

With all her honors and awards, she is still as down-to-earth as anyone can be.

Smith is leaving politics with the same thing she took into it — honesty and integrity and a name “worth more than silver or gold.”

We are fortunate to have had Patti Smith serve us for so many years.  The lives of many children and families are better because of it.

At her request, there will be no huge, fancy parties when she retires. She will simply fade away into her retirement living as she has served — with the quiet integrity and genuine humility for which she is known.

Beth Chapman, Alabama’s secretary of state, is a Shelby County resident and writes a weekly column for the Shelby County Reporter. You can reach her at