Drawing upon more than 45 years of practiced excellence in law, Judge Mary Libby Payne is a noteworthy law professional, who most recently served on the Mississippi Court of Appeals from 1995 until her retirement in 2001. Recalling these years as the highlight of her career, she previously lent her expertise to Mississippi College as a professor from 1978 to 1994, where she later became a scholar-in-residence and professor emerita. Notably, she was the founding dean and an associate professor of the School of Law at Mississippi College, who awarded her an honorary JD in 2013.
Earlier in her career, Judge Payne was an assistant attorney general in the State Attorney General Office, chief of drafting and research with the Mississippi House of Representatives, and executive director of the Mississippi Judiciary Commission. At the inception of her career in 1955, she was a partner of Bickerstaff & Bickerstaff, and later served Henley, Jones & Henley as an associate for three years. Additionally, she held a private law practice in Brandon, Mississippi, from 1963 to 1968. First completing coursework at the Mississippi University for Women in the early 1950s, Judge Payne sat on their board of distinguished alumnae from 1988 to 2000.
Equally passionate about civic endeavors, Judge Payne is a past advisor of the Covenant Ministerial Fellowship, serving in the role from 1995 to 2002. From 1999 to 2001, she sat on the board of directors of the Exchange Club’s Child Abuse Prevention Center and, for a decade between 1983 and 1993, she was the founder and a board of directors member of the Christian Conciliation Service. A longtime member of the Rankin County Baptist Association, she served as counsel to the Christian action committee from 1968 to 1992.
Demonstrating versatility in her profession, Judge Payne has contributed articles to legal journals and authored the book “A Goodly Heritage: A Memoir of Mississippi College School of Law” in 2011. In recognition of her exceptional service to law and her community, she has accrued numerous accolades. In 2015, she was inducted into the Law Alumni Hall of Fame by the University of Mississippi School of Law and, in 2013, she was named Judicial Woman of the Year by the Mississippi Commission on the Status of Women. The recipient of the Woman Trailblazer Award from the women in the profession committee of the Mississippi Bar in 2012, she also earned a Mississippi Medal of Service from the Governor of Mississippi in 2011.
Furthermore, the Mississippi Women Lawyers Association gave Judge Payne a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, Mississippi State University gave her a Distinguished Jurist Award in 2004 and the Christian Legal Society gave her a National Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. Earlier in her career, she was named an Outstanding Woman Lawyer by the Mississippi Women Lawyers Association in 1999 and earned the Woman of the Year Award from the Mississippi Association of Women in Higher Education in 1989, among many other accolades. A celebrated Marquis listee, she has been selected for inclusion in myriad editions of Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, Who’s Who in the World and Who’s Who of American Women.
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