A Legal Legend is Honored as a Hero

By Rebecca Powers - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Hornsby has rubbed elbows with everyone from Trent Lott and Elizabeth Dole to Janet Reno and Dr. Alton Oschner. She is a national legend in the legal world and a Biloxian through and through. Born to Yugoslavian immigrants on the Point, she became one of the first women to graduate from Ole Miss law school. The year was 1945.

Clare Hornsby says, "It was meant for me, and I loved it. And of course I was going to come back to my hometown where my mother and father would enjoy having me, instead of going any place else."

Another woman in her class who went on to greatness, the late Lt. Governor Evelyn Gandy. She was Hornsby's law school room mate and dear friend for 60 years. Gandy called Clare Hornsby a "trail blazer, paving the path for many, many women" in the legal profession.

"I did criminal work. I did some murder cases and rape cases and things like that. I guess I was the first one in South Mississippi, at least to start practicing and do a little bit of everything back in 1945."

A little bit of everything defines the rich, full life she leads. She was the first female Bar Association President in state history and was admitted to argue before nation's highest court.

"And we went to the United States Supreme Court, my brother and I. I think it might have 1956, and I think we were the first brother/sister team admitted to the United States Supreme Court."

Along with her brother John Sekul a long time municipal judge, she too was appointed to the chancery court bench to help with heavy case loads. Hornsby is also an honorary commander at Keesler Air Force Base and attended war college in 1971 where she became a "jet jockey."

"Yes, I got to go by an act of congress in a T-38, so it was a real thrill. I was the first one to go up."

And she accomplished all this while raising four children and running her own law firm.

"I was lucky to have a wonderful husband. He promoted me and supported me."

In her 65 year career, she has become known for her pro-bono work in family law and was a pioneer of private adoptions. Now in her late 80's, this energetic great-grandmother, still runs her firm full-time and says it's easy to keep going strong when you do what you love.

Hornsby says, "To have a passion for what you do because you can make a difference in someone's life, and sometimes it takes five minutes and sometimes it takes five days and sometimes it takes years, but you can be there for everybody."

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