HATTIESBURG, MS. - A local judge paves the way for women in the Hattiesburg community. Chancellor Deborah J. Gambrell has served more than 30 years in the legal profession as a lawyer, Justice Court Judge, and as the 10th District Chancery Judge.
“I always liked the law, I always thought that was the only way that people could be treated fairly, I always thought that the rule of law could be applied equally to all people" says Judge Gambrell.
While at the University of Southern University (USM) in the 1970's Judge Gambrell was a Dixie Darling for a very different reason. She says USM is where she started fighting against social stigmas.
“I am a person of color, I have the same abilities of other students who are not of color, and I want to do this because I want to show that I am equal and can do the same thing.”
After USM she attended Mississippi College School of Law as a mother of two. “People tried to treat me differently, but I did not accept being treated differently" she says.
According to Judge Gambrell most mothers, let alone, African-American women were not working or even in the courtroom.
She explains, “In every courtroom there is a rail and judges and lawyers are inside."
"...bailiffs would come in as if I was a secretary and I would say, 'I am a lawyer', and they would say 'oh I am sorry, you can sit here'."
As a woman, a mother of six daughters, and a Judge, her service extended further than just the bench.
“Women and children in my personal opinion are those in society who got the short end of the stick."
She adds, "...when it comes to healthcare and when it comes to being part of making policy in this world. I am a woman and I see the disparities.” Judge Gambrell considers herself a voice for women and children.
“It takes a village to raise a child and people have to be immersed in the community.” She has been involved in a handful of community organizations and inside her church.
Judge Gambrell says, “What I do impacts other people, and I have a responsibility to grab people by the hand who are less fortunate and try to bring them along with me.”
She is the recipient of several female awards and hopes her role as a Judge and community activist helps others realize they are capable of anything.
“I hope they take it as an example for other women to be totally immersed in their community" says Judge Gambrell.
Judge Gambrell has participated in the following as a Board of Director:
Family YMCA (1996-present) President: 2001-2002
Southeast Mississippi Legal Services, Inc., 1994-2007
United Way of SE Mississippi 2007-2011
Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science Foundation, 2010
Dubard School Advisory Board 2010-2011
Forrest General Hospital Foundation 2006-2009
Friends of the Library Board - U.S.M. - 2011
Awards and Recognition:
Hattiesburg Women's Forum - WOMAN OF THE YEAR - 2005
2003 HONOREE - Mississippi Women's Power of One
Outstanding Young Woman - Hattiesburg Jaycettes, 1982
"Thanks Award" - Girls Scouts of America
Woman of the Year - VFW Post 5397 - 1990
Mississippi State Bar Citizenship Award - 2011