Lenore L. Prather was the first female chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court and has been praised as a trailblazer for women in the state. The daughter of Byron Herald Loving, who represented Clay County in the state legislature, and Hattie Hearn Morris Loving, Lenore Loving was born in West Point, Mississippi, on 17 September 1931. She graduated from West Point High School in 1949 and from Mississippi University for Women four years later. Loving earned a law degree from the University of Mississippi in 1955 and practiced privately until 1971, working first with her father and later her husband, Robert Brooks Prather, whom she married in 1957.
In 1965 Prather became the municipal judge of West Point, and in 1971 Gov. John Bell Williams appointed her judge for the 14th Chancery District of Mississippi, which encompasses Lowndes, Clay, Oktibbeha, Noxubee, Webster, and Chickasaw Counties. Prather won election to the court in 1974 and reelection in 1975 and 1982. Later that year, Gov. William Winter appointed her to the state Supreme Court, the first woman to serve as a justice. Prather became presiding justice in 1993 and chief justice in 1998. However, she suffered a stunning defeat in the 2000 judicial election and left the Court. From July 2001 to June 2002 Prather served as interim president of the Mississippi University for Women.
Prather has received numerous honors for her achievements. Mississippi University for Women awarded her its Medal of Excellence in 1990 and its Alumni Achievement Award in 1993. Two years later the University of Mississippi Law School named her Alumna of the Year. Gov. Haley Barbour awarded Prather the Mississippi Medal of Service in 2009, and in 2012 she was inducted into the Law Alumni Hall of Fame at the University of Mississippi’s School of Law.
Prather resides in Columbus. She maintains an active speaking schedule, encouraging the continued advancement of women in all spheres of life. In one such speech, Prather asserted, “No matter what direction we travel in our careers we should open the door behind us for the women of the next generation, to ensure that women enrich our society even further in the future.”
- Mississippi State University, Mitchell Memorial Library, Morris W. H. Collins Speaker Series website, http://lib.msstate.edu/collins/speakers/
- Southern Women’s Institute, Mississippi University for Women, Golden Days: Reminiscences of Alumnae, Mississippi State College for Women (2009)