Longtime judge, pioneer for Mississippi women leaders, dies

Longtime judge, pioneer for Mississippi women leaders, dies
Longtime judge, pioneer for Mississippi women leaders, dies (Source: WTVA)

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — Sadie Monts Holland, longtime Lee County Justice Court Judge and pioneer for Mississippi women in public service, has died at age 87.

Holland’s son, Steve Holland, wrote on social media that she died of a heart attack and stroke Monday after undergoing heart surgery.

“We celebrate the renaissance life she’s lived for almost 88 years and will the whole of our lives thank God for Sadie being the most caring, compassionate, loving Mom anyone could have,” Holland, a former state representative, wrote on Facebook.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports that Holland was involved in public service for more than 50 years. Many of the positions she held were firsts for women.

Holland was born Jan. 31, 1933, the only child of sharecroppers, according to The Journal. She married John Clarence “J.C.” Holland in December 1949 and raised six sons on their Plantersville farm, known by many as the Sadie J. Farm.

Holland became the first woman in Mississippi to serve as a public school bus driver in the 1960s, a job she performed for 17 years. She was the first female court administrator in Tupelo and was elected the first female mayor of Nettleton in 1979.

After running at age 70, she was the first woman elected justice court judge in Lee County, a position she held for 16 years.

In addition, Holland was the first woman to lead an integrated 4-H Club in Mississippi.

Holland was at the center of a national news story in 2013 when she was one of three people who were sent letters that tested positive for the poison ricin. The other letters were addressed to then-President Barack Obama and Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

The letters to Obama and Wicker never reached their intended targets because they were stopped in mail processing facilities.

Holland opened her ricin letter, and Steve Holland told The Associated Press in 2013 that like just about any country lady would do, she gave it a “smell test” when she saw something odd. Steve Holland reports it burnt her nose a little. The judge later underwent medical tests and was found to be fine.

A Tupelo man was charged with attempted use of a biological weapon in connection with the letters and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The state legislature honored Holland in 2019 with a statewide resolution that named the intersection of Highway 6 and County Road 814 as “The Sadie Holland Intersection.” She retired as Lee County Justice Court Judge in November 2019.

Holland is predeceased by her husband, who died in 2016 at age 85.

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