Title: Emerita Dean, Professor, Judge (Retired)
Location: Pearl, Mississippi, United States
Mary Libby Payne, JD, LLD (Hon), Emerita Dean, Professor, Judge (Retired), has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Lawyers for dedication, achievements, and leadership in oil and gas law.
Growing up and watching her father practice law and work as a legislator had a lasting impact on Judge Payne. While torn between going in to social work and becoming a lawyer, she considers it a sign from God that pointed her to choose a career in the legal tract. While in her freshman and sophomore years of college, she met with Dr. Chester Swor who helped guide her to become a lawyer. Due to this decision, Judge Payne dedicated more than four decades as an educator, lawyer and judge. She retired in 2001 as a Judge in the Mississippi Court of Appeals. In 2012, she became professor emerita from the Mississippi College School of Law.
Judge Payne spent two years at the Mississippi University for Women before continuing her education at the University of Mississippi. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1954 with distinction and received an LLB from the institution a year later. In 2013, Mississippi College presented her with an Honorary LLD. After earning an LLB, she was admitted to the bar in the state of Mississippi. In her first year out of college, she worked as a Partner at Bickerstaff & Bickerstaff. She then became an associate at Henley, Jones, & Henley from 1958 to 1961 before venturing in to solo practice. In 1968, she was asked to be the Executive Director of the Mississippi Judiciary Commission, a position she held for two years. Following this, Judge Payne spent an additional two years as the Chief of Drafting and Research for the Mississippi House of Representatives. From 1972 to 1975, she worked as the Assistant Attorney General for the State Attorney General Office in the state. She then felt a calling to academia, and became a founding dean and associate professor for the School of Law at Mississippi College. From 1978 to 1994, she taught at the college as a full professor.
Based on her excellence in the field, Judge Payne has received a number of awards and achievements. Two of her most recent honors were her induction to the Hall of Fame of the Christian Legal Society and to the Law Alumni Hall of Fame of the University of Mississippi in 2015. In 2013, she was commemorated as the Judicial Woman of the Year from the Mississippi Commission on Status Women. In her career, Judge Payne has also received a Woman Trailblazer Award from the Women in the Procession Committee of the Mississippi Bar, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mississippi Women Lawyers Association and a Book of Golden Deeds Award from the Pearl Exchange Club among many other accolades.
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