Justice Cornelia A. (“Connie”) Clark, age 71, passed away Friday morning, Sept. 24, 2021, at her residence surrounded by family.
She had the longest tenure of the Justices currently serving on the Tennessee Supreme Court, having been appointed to the Court in 2005. She was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 2010-2012. Justice Clark was devoted to her Christian faith, her family, her community, and the rule of law. In her childhood, she was taught to live by the words of Micah 6:8 “To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”; and she did so throughout her life.
Justice Clark is survived by: sister, Cathy Clark Perry; sister-in-law, Lulu Luton Clark; nephews, Brad (Stacey) Perry, Matt Perry, Clay (Tatum) Perry, Reid (Martha) Clark and Jay Clark; 13 great nieces and nephews and other loving family members. Preceded in death by parents, William Howard, Sr. and Connie Anne Ewin Clark and brother, William Howard “Bill” Clark, Jr.
Justice Clark, was born Sept. 15, 1950 in Franklin, Tennessee, where her family has lived for 10 generations. She attended Franklin public schools and graduated from Henry Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia. She was named a Presidential Scholar. Justice Clark attended Vanderbilt University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1971. Following college, she obtained a master’s degree in teaching from Harvard University. Justice Clark taught school in the Atlanta area for four years following her time at Harvard. She then returned to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt University School of Law. While in law school, she served on the Editorial Board of the Vanderbilt Law Review.
Upon graduation from law school in 1979, Clark joined the law firm of Farris, Warfield, and Kanaday, now known as Stites and Harbison. During this time, she represented many cities, police departments and several school boards, served as Franklin’s city attorney and was one of the first women partners in a large Nashville law firm. Justice Clark was appointed in 1989 to the circuit court for the state’s 21st Judicial District (Williamson, Hickman, Lewis and Perry counties) by Gov. Ned McWherter. She was the first woman to serve the 21st Judicial District, and she was the first woman in Tennessee to serve rural counties. In 1999, she accepted an appointment by the Tennessee Supreme Court to serve as director of the administrative office of the courts, where Justice Clark championed improvements to the court system throughout the state.
In 2005, Gov. Phil Bredesen appointed Justice Clark to the Tennessee Supreme Court, and she was re-elected in 2006 and 2014. When Justice Clark was appointed Chief Justice for a two-year term in 2010, she became the second woman in state history to hold this position. Throughout her legal career, she was known as a trailblazer and successful advocate for women in the legal profession.
During her tenure on the Court, Justice Clark was involved in nearly every program and project in the court system, including the Access to Justice initiative and pioneering the successful Faith and Justice Alliance, which brought attorneys into community faith-based organizations.
Justice Clark was a state and national leader and teacher, having chaired the Tennessee Judicial Council and serving as the inaugural chair of the Judicial Evaluation Commission. In 2004, she was named one of the 21 members of the American Bar Association Commission on the American Jury to educate the public and reinvigorate the nation’s commitment to jury service. She taught at the National Judicial College, New York University, the American Academy of Judicial Education and the American Institute for Justice. For many years, she served on the faculty as an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt Law School and on the faculty of the Nashville School of Law.
She spoke frequently to civic and leadership groups about the importance of the rule of law and of an independent, accountable judiciary in protecting the constitutional rights accorded all persons and groups. She was well known for ensuring that justice was accessible to others of all backgrounds, genders, races and economic standing.
Justice Clark was also devoted to the legal profession and her community, generously giving of her time. During her lifetime, she served on the boards of 25 non-profit and civic organizations, and she worked with nearly 75 organizations, commissions, advisory groups, and task forces. She was a devoted member of Franklin First United Methodist Church where she served as lay leader, and member of the finance committee, the Trustees, and the staff parish relations committee.
Justice Clark loved her family. She enjoyed celebrating Sunday dinners with them at her historic home and attending sports events and school programs in which her family participated. She also loved Beatles music, reading history novels and women’s basketball.
Funeral services will be conducted at noon on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021 at Franklin First United Methodist Church. Visitation opportunities will be the following, Justice Clark will lie in state at the Tennessee State Capitol in the old Supreme Court Chamber on Wednesday, Sept. 29 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.; visitation at Franklin First United Methodist Church on Thursday, Sept. 30 from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. and also Friday, Oct. 1 from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. prior to the service. A private family graveside will be in Historic Resthaven Cemetery. Active pallbearers will be Jay Clark, Reid Clark, Brad Perry, Clay Perry, Matt Perry and Rodney Perry. Honorary pallbearers will be Margaret Behm, Julian Bibb, Chief Justice Roger A. Page, Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins, Justice Holly Kirby, Justice Sharon G. Lee and Lisa Hazlett-Wallace. Memorials may be given to Franklin First United Methodist Church, 120 Aldersgate Way, Franklin, TN 37069 or The U.S. Presidential Scholars Foundation. Live streaming for the funeral service will be available live.franklinfumc.org
WILLIAMSON MEMORIAL FUNERAL HOME, 615 794-2289 williamsonmemorial.com