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Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia Clark to lie in state in Nashville Wednesday

Justice Cornelia Clark passed away Thursday night after a short battle with cancer.
Credit: Tennessee Supreme Court

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — UPDATE 9/28/2021 - Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Connie Clark will lie in state at the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville Wednesday, September 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Justice Clark passed away September 24th after a short battle with cancer. She will be the first active member of the judiciary to lie in state at the Tennessee State Capitol and the second woman.

Clark served on the state Supreme Court since 2005. She was a member of the judicial branch for more than 30 years.

Earlier this year, Tennessee Senator Thelma Harris, who was the first black woman to serve in the Tennessee Senate, was the first woman to lie in state at the state Capitol.

In 2020, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the first woman to lie in state at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.

“We thank the General Assembly and Governor for providing Justice Clark with this honor,” Chief Justice Roger A. Page said in a news release. “Justice Clark served the people of Tennessee for over 30 years — as a justice, as a trial judge, and as the administrative director of the court system. She was the ultimate public servant, working with more than 75 organizations dedicated to improving the courts and providing access to justice as well as those focused on her beloved hometown of Franklin. She was a mentor to dozens of the state’s judges and top attorneys. She truly touched every corner of our judicial system.”

Visitation for Justice Clark is set for Thursday, September 30th, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday, October 1st from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church at 120 Aldersgate Way in Franklin from 2 to 7 p.m.

The funeral will take place at the church Friday at noon. It is expected to be livestreamed from the church’s website.

The burial will be private.


9/24/2021 - Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia A. Clark, whose public service to the judiciary and her community spanned over four decades, passed away Thursday night, at the age of 71 after a short battle with cancer. 

Justice Clark was first appointed to the Supreme Court in 2005 by Governor Phil Bredesen and was reelected in 2006 and 2014.  She served as Chief Justice from 2010 to 2012. Prior to joining the Court, she was the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts from 1999 to 2005.

“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.”

When Governor Ned McWherter appointed Justice Clark to the trial bench covering the 21st Judicial District of Williamson, Hickman, Perry and Lewis counties in 1989, she became the first woman trial judge to serve rural counties in Tennessee. She paved the way for fellow judges to be accepted by clerks, litigants, lawyers, and other judges.

Justice Clark had the longest tenure of the Justices currently serving on the Supreme Court. She was well-known for precise and detailed legal analysis and writing style, as well as being an active and thoughtful questioner during oral arguments. In total, she was on the bench for more than 1,100 Supreme Court cases.

Justice Clark’s scope of work, however, reached far beyond the Supreme Court. She was involved in nearly every program and project in the court system, including the Access to Justice initiative, as well as a being a fixture in bar, community, and religious organizations in Middle Tennessee and nationally for more than 40 years.