STARKVILLE, Miss.--The U.S. Senate today appointed 1987 Mississippi State alumna Debra M. Brown as Mississippi's first African-American female U.S. District Judge.
Brown graduated with the top architecture award, and her perseverance, diligence and focus were obvious to the School of Architecture's faculty and administration.
"MSU alumni have enjoyed growing success in their judicial careers at both the state and federal levels," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. "The confirmation of MSU alumna Debra M. Brown to the bench of the U.S. District Court in Mississippi's Northern District is an honor for MSU and for the state of Mississippi. She will do a marvelous job."
Michael Fazio, retired MSU professor emeritus, has been a member of the architecture faculty since the school's inception in 1973.
"I knew her quite well. She was a serious student and worked hard," he said. "Her sense of focus, diligence and improvement -- I always saw her as someone who had a plan."
Brown's work ethic and determination served her through architectural associate jobs, then law school. Prior to her judicial appointment, she was a shareholder with Wise Carter Child & Caraway in Jackson.
"She has remained on the Architecture Advisory Council, and that speaks volumes to what we do here," said Michael Berk, director of MSU's School of Architecture. "You can relate your education in architecture to almost anything in terms of what you want do, and that's what Brown has done."
After graduating from MSU, Brown worked in Washington, D.C. Not only was she involved in several construction projects for residential and commercial properties, Brown also renovated historic and municipal buildings. In 1994, she entered the University of Mississippi School of Law. In the years since her graduation in 1997, her practice has focused on civil litigation, especially commercial litigation and construction-related issues.
Jim West, dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Design, said Brown's architecture experiences in Washington, D.C., probably influenced her decision to pursue a legal career.
"There is a whole area of law related to building and construction law and construction litigation," he said. "Somebody who has a degree in arch as well as a degree in law would be exceptionally well prepared to understand that practice."
In Brown's July response to questions from U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking member of the judiciary committee, she emphasized respect is the most important attribute of a judge.
"When a judge truly respects the position, I believe the judge will necessarily execute all judicial duties with impartiality, fairness, integrity and discipline, and apply the law to the facts of each case or controversy in an even-handed manner consistend with judicial precedent and applicable procedural rules," Brown said.
She's the only attorney in the state who also has a degree in architecture, West said.
"She is unique in the state of Mississippi, and she's been very successful professionally," he said. "Brown has stayed active in the community, and that commitment began in the school of architecture."
In addition to serving on the advisory board, Brown is a member of various bar groups, including the National Bar Association, American Bar Association, Mississippi Women Lawyers Association and Metro Jackson Black Women Lawyers Association, serving in various leadership positions.