Judge Phyllis S. Nesbit: a Woman of Courage, 0713 ALBJ, 74 The Alabama Lawyer 247 (2013)

Author:Elizabeth Cason Crosby Cheely


Vol. 74 No. 4 Pg. 247

Alabama Bar Lawyer

July 2013

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0 Elizabeth Cason Crosby Cheely

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0Every lawyer in Alabama can be encouraged and inspired by the life and accomplishments of the late Judge Phyllis S. Nesbit. She endured poverty as a child, discrimination as one of the states early female lawyers and judicial candidates, personal tragedies and health problems throughout her life. With her true grit and faith in God, she established a successful law practice in Baldwin County and, eventually, became the first woman popularly elected as an Alabama trial judge. She died in Mobile in October 2005, but her inspirational career remains a model for lawyers and judges throughout the state.

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0Judge Nesbit was born Phyllis Lorain Schneider in Newkirk, Oklahoma on September 21, 1919. Her father was a bookkeeper who died when she was an infant, and her mother died of diabetes when her daughter was two years old. She was raised by her grandparents.

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0After graduating from Newkirk High School, she attended business college in Ponca City, Oklahoma in order to "learn to make a living."

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0In Judge Nesbits own words, "You were considered a spinster if you did not get married before you were 20 years old, and I got married seven days before I turned 20." Her husband of more than 50 years was Pete Nesbit, whom she met on the way home from a Methodist church revival. They drank Coca-Colas and danced to the Beer Barrel Polka on their first date. They soon eloped by hitching a ride from a candy salesman in his candy truck. They were married in the Methodist church in Nowata, Oklahoma, which had been decorated for a wedding later that night. The candy truck driver served as Pete's best man, and the preachers wife served as the maid of honor.

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0Newly-married and in search of employment, the Nesbits moved to Kansas, then hitchhiked to Oklahoma and eventually landed in Orange, Texas in 1941, where Pete worked as a journeyman pipefitter on destroyers and she studied drafting. Two years later, both transferred to the Alabama Dry Docks in Mobile, where Pete served as a superintendent and Phyllis was a draftswoman.

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0The Nesbits next moved to Tuscaloosa, where both enrolled at...

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