Judge Camille R. McMullen made history in 2008 when she became the first African-American woman to serve at the appellate court level in Tennessee. This week, she made history again as the first African-American woman ever to preside over a panel of an appellate court proceeding in the state.
On August 6, Judge McMullen, of Shelby County, presided over the August term of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, Western Section in Jackson. Long-standing tradition of the court dictates the judge with the most seniority serve as presiding judge, sitting in the middle as the central authority of the panel of judges, and opening and adjourning court.
Although Judge McMullen has been on the court for over five years, she never has had seniority or presided over a panel.
Judge Thomas Woodall, of Dickson, and Judge John Everett Williams, of Huntingdon, yielded their seniority and asked Judge McMullen to preside, making this historic event possible.
“Judge McMullen has proven herself to be a respected colleague and it was time that this barrier was broken sooner than later,” Judge Woodall said. “Today is a good day for the state of Tennessee and the judicial system.”
Judge John Everett Williams echoed Judge Woodall’s remarks, noting he was delighted to be involved in a historic event that broke barriers, opened doors, and perhaps will inspire others to pursue opportunities that before appeared unattainable.
“I commend the wisdom of my colleague Judge Woodall for his noble and thoughtful gesture and I agree that this time had come,” Judge Williams said.
Judge McMullen said she was honored and emotionally touched by her colleagues’ gesture, remarking how this historic event exemplifies how far the Tennessee judiciary has come and how she is confident that progress will continue.
“When I was appointed in 2008, I received unwavering support from my colleagues. Today is yet another example of their continued support,” she said.
She specifically thanked judges Woodall and Williams for recognizing and acknowledging the significance of the moment.
Judge McMullen was appointed to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, Western Section, by Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2008. She remains the only African-American female appointed to any appellate court in Tennessee’s history.