Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia Clark died overnight after a short battle with cancer, Tennessee judiciary officials announced Friday. She was 71.
Clark was first appointed to the high court by Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2005 and was re-elected in 2006 and 2014 retention elections, despite a coordinated effort to unseat her and other Democratic appointees in 2014. Clark served as chief justice from 2010 to 2012.
Clark was director of the Administrative Office of the Courts from 1999 to 2005. She was a judge in Williamson, Hickman, Perry and Lewis counties prior to that.
"Our prayers are with Justice Clark's family. She served the 21st District as a Circuit Court Judge for ten years before moving on to serve all citizens of the State," current District Attorney for the 21st Judicial District Kim Helper said in a social media post. "Thankful for her service and friendship."
The longest-tenured member of the Supreme Court, Clark heard more than 1,100 cases according to a release.
Clark graduated from Vanderbilt University and earned a master’s degree from Harvard before teaching history. She later attended Vanderbilt University Law School.
Information on memorial services is forthcoming.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee will appoint a successor, to be confirmed by the GOP-controlled General Assembly. Clark’s death leaves Justice Sharon Lee as the lone Democratic appointee on the court.
“Justice Clark was a member of the Tennessee judicial family for over 30 years and has mentored hundreds of judges,” said Chief Justice Roger A. Page. “She loved the Tennessee judicial system and has made it better in immeasurable ways. As her colleague for the past five and one-half years, I observed her tremendous work ethic. Her keen mind was surpassed only by her kind and caring heart. She truly tried her best to decide each case based on the applicable law and nothing else. The Supreme Court will not be the same without her.”