Leah Ward Sears papers
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Leah Ward Sears papers

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Georgia Historical Society
Creator: Sears, Leah Ward.
Title: Leah Ward Sears papers
Dates: 1980-2009
Extent: 6.87 cubic feet (7 boxes, 1 roll, 1 framed item)
Identification: MS 2427

Biographical/Historical Note

Leah Sears was born in Heidelberg, Germany on 13 June 1955 to Onnye Jean and Thomas E. Sears. Her father was a United States Army colonel and the family was stationed throughout the world until settling in Savannah, Georgia when Sears was 16 years old. She attended Savannah High School and received her B.S. degree in 1976 from Cornell University. After graduating, she married Love Collins, III (whom she later divorced) and had two children, Addison and Brennan. She later married Haskell Ward in 1999.

In 1980, Sears graduated from Emory University law school and received her master’s degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1995. She worked as an attorney with the Alston and Bird law firm until her appointment to the City of Atlanta Traffic Court in 1982. Six years later, she became a Fulton County Superior Court judge and at the age of thirty-two was the youngest person to ever serve as a Superior Court judge in the state of Georgia. Sears was also the first African-American woman to hold such a position in the state of Georgia.

In 1992, Governor Zell Miller appointed Sears to serve on Georgia's Supreme Court making her the first woman and youngest person to ever serve on that court. Sears retained her seat by winning a statewide election in fall of that year and became the first woman to win a contested statewide election in Georgia.

In June 2005, Sears was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia and served the court until 2009. During her seventeen years on the court, she sided with opinions that overturned the state's anti-sodomy law and criticized the use of the electric chair as cruel and unusual punishment.

Sears founded the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys and the Columbus branch of the Battered Women's Project. She's received numerous awards and honors including honorary doctor of law degrees from Spelman College and Morehouse College, and was named one of Georgia Trend's "100 Most Influential Georgians". She is active on many community boards around the state.

In 2009, President Barak Obama considered Sears as a potential replacement for retiring United States Supreme Court Justice David Souter, but Sonia Sotomayor was ultimately appointed. That same year, Sears announced her plan to retire from the court and join the law firm of Schiff Hardin in Atlanta, Georgia.

Excerpted from the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains articles and clippings about Leah Ward Sears, awards, campaign materials, certificates, correspondence, event programs, opinions, photographs, plaques, resolutions, speeches, trophies, and writings authored by Sears. Collection materials date from 1980-2009.

Much of the collection was organized in folders upon receipt. While re-boxing the collection, loose materials were placed in archival folders and approximately two cubic feet of duplicate articles and publications were separated.


This collection is arranged into 7 boxes and 2 loose items: Box 1: Awards, campaign materials, certificates, correspondence, event programs, opinions, resolutions, speeches, and writings by Leah Ward Sears, 1980-2009. Box 2: "Day to Remember" notebook, miscellaneous articles and publications collected by Sears, Supreme Court of Georgia booklet, "Press Kit" folder, Coretta Scott King memorial booklet, "Personal Data Questionnaire", folders of correspondence, clippings, campaign materials, and photographs, 1993-2009. Box 3: Articles and clippings about Leah Ward Sears, 1986-Sep 1994. Box 4: Articles and clippings about Leah Ward Sears, Oct 1994-Jun 29, 1995 Box 5: Articles and clippings about Leah Ward Sears, Jun 30, 1995-2009, undated Box 6: Oversize materials including articles about Leah Ward Sears, awards, resolutions, a cartoon, photographs, and a courtroom drawing by Bobby Lee Cook, 1998-2008. Box 7: Artifacts including: Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Athens Alumni Chapter, Lifetime Achievement Award in Justice plaque, Jun 12, 2004; East Central Traffic Enforcement Network Certificate of Appreciation plaque, undated; Gate City Bar Association Judicial Section Member plaque, undated; Board of Visitors of the Walter F. George School of Law of Mercer University, 1993-1999, Appreciation of Service plaque, undated; 1992 Academy of Women Achievers YWCA of Greater Atlanta trophy (broken prior to receipt); Women's History Celebration trophy, 2006; Honorary Degree Recipient-Doctor of Laws, May 17, 2009, Spelman College plate; State of New York, Governor Mario M. Cuomo paperweight; and Participant Gaaljho 1997 Seminar paperweight. Loose items: "Children's Champion Award Foreverfamily 2008"; and 2 copies of "READ" poster featuring Leah Ward Sears, undated.

Index Terms

Artifacts (object genre)
Clippings (information artifacts)
Georgia. Supreme Court.
Letters (correspondence)
Programs (documents)
Resolutions (administrative records)
Sears, Leah Ward.
Sears, Leah Ward.
Speeches (documents)

Administrative Information

Processing Information:

This collection is processed at the Basic Level (or collection level). There is no detailed inventory for this collection as it is not fully processed. To request that this collection be added to our priority list of collections to be fully processed as staffing and funding allow, please contact the Library and Archives staff.


Access Restrictions:

Collection is open for research. The first page of "Personal Data Questionnaire", located in box 2, is restricted for privacy purposes and a redacted photocopy is available for research use.