Former judge exemplifies leadership

Published 5:32 pm Monday, February 4, 2013

By BETH CHAPMAN/Community Columnist

Former Shelby County District Judge and Alabama Supreme Court Justice Patti Smith exemplifies leadership in every aspect of her life.

In her retirement, Judge Patti Smith enjoys traveling with her mother, Norma Mungenast.

Born one of the oldest of 14 children, she learned the art of leadership skills early in life by having to help prepare her younger siblings before going to school each day.

“I was the only kid who went to school smelling like Pabulum,” Smith jokes.

Working three jobs to put herself through college, Smith’s work ethic was further developed in a concrete way.

Being a part of a military family taught her much about discipline, determination and commitment. All of those lessons would serve her and the people of our county and state well later in life.

Smith was one of the first female attorneys and the first female judge in Shelby County in addition to being one of the state’s youngest and longest-serving judges.

She served on the Juvenile Court bench for 25 years. She created the Alabama Developing Youth (DAY) Program, The Friends of the Court/Court Appointed Social Advocates program and was instrumental in organizing a 34-bed, 3.2 million dollar state-of-the-art Juvenile Detention Center. She served on the boards of multiple child advocacy groups and worked with the Board of Education to develop the Early Warning Program. She chaired the county’s first Children’s Policy Council.

Smith says leadership involves dedication toward a cause and a passion toward what you’re doing. She says there are two types of leaders she has seen in her life: visionaries and those with administrative skills. “There are benefits of all different kinds of leaders – people who use their God-given talents,” Smith concludes.

Since retirement, Smith has helped many good causes, but specifically four. She is chairman of the Catholic Social Services Board of Directors, serves on the Board of Directors for the Day Program and the Lovelady Center. She just completed a decade on the Catholic Diocesan Review Board.

On the bench, in the courtroom or retired in the community, Patti Smith is one of the most accomplished leaders of our county and state.


Beth Chapman, Alabama’s secretary of state, is a Shelby County resident. You can reach her at