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The Honorable Brenda H. Cole

Judge Brenda H. Cole was born on January 25, 1943 in Joaquin, Texas to Eulalia and Garfield Hill. She attended Weldon High School, in Gladewater, Texas where her father was the principal, and her mother a teacher. An excellent student, Cole was valedictorian of her graduating class in 1959. She attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, received her B.A degree in English in 1963, her M.A degree in library science at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) in 1967 and her J.D degree from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in 1977.

After her admission to the State Bar of Georgia, Cole began her law career as the Assistant Attorney General in the Fiscal Affairs Division of the Georgia State Law Department, a position she held for five years. After moving to West Virginia, she was employed as counsel for the West Virginia Department of Corrections in Charleston, West Virginia and was admitted to the West Virginia State Bar. Cole served as Assistant Attorney General in the Tax Division of the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office, and as Deputy Attorney General of the West Virginia Environmental and Energy Division.

Returning to Atlanta, Cole rejoined the Georgia State Law Department, serving first as Assistant Attorney General for the Environmental Division; then, Senior Assistant Attorney General, heading the Business and Professional Regulations Division; and later, Deputy Attorney General before her appointment as a State Court Judge in 1998. She retired in 2012 and was appointed as a Senior Judge by Governor Nathan Deal.

Cole has served as President of the Council of State Judges, and as a member of Links, Inc., the Dogwood Chapter and Atlanta’s Women Foundation. She is the founder of the Clark Atlanta University Guild, an organization which provides scholarships for arts and humanities students at Clark Atlanta University. She also serves on the boards of the Children’s Museum of Atlanta and Bar Fitness of Georgia.

Cole is married to Thomas Winston Cole, Jr., President Emeritus, Clark Atlanta University. They are the parents of Kelley S. Cole and Thomas Winston Cole, III.

Cole was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 19, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.018

Sex

Female

Interview Date

1/19/2007

Last Name

Cole

Maker Category
Middle Name

H.

Occupation
Schools

Weldon High School

Joaquin Colored School

Spelman College

Clark Atlanta University

Emory University School of Law

First Name

Brenda

Birth City, State, Country

Joaquin

HM ID

COL13

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

I Can Do All Things Through Christ That Strengthens Me.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

1/25/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Turkey

Short Description

State court judge The Honorable Brenda H. Cole (1943 - ) is a Georgia State Court Judge, and has held additional appointments as counsel for the West Virginia Department of Corrections in Charleston, West Virginia, Assistant Attorney General in the Tax Division, and as Deputy Attorney General of the West Virginia Environmental and Energy Division.

Employment

Georgia State Law Department

West Virginia Attorney General

Fulton County State Court

Favorite Color

Yellow

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Brenda H. Cole's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Brenda H. Cole lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Brenda H. Cole remembers her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Brenda H. Cole remembers her paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Brenda H. Cole talks about her father's childhood and career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Brenda H. Cole talks about her mother's childhood and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Brenda H. Cole talks about how her parents met and her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Brenda H. Cole recalls her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Brenda H. Cole describes her childhood neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Brenda H. Cole talks about her relatives who "passed" for white

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Brenda H. Cole shares her memory of her first day of school

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Brenda H. Cole recalls her experience in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Brenda H. Cole describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Brenda H. Cole talks about race relations in her hometown of Joaquin, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Brenda H. Cole talks about her experience in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Brenda H. Cole describes moving to Gladewater, Texas and attending Weldon High School

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Brenda H. Cole recalls her teachers at Weldon High School in Gladewater, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Brenda H. Cole describes her community in Gladewater, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Brenda H. Cole recalls her extracurricular activities at Weldon High School in Gladewater, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Brenda H. Cole recalls meeting her husband, HistoryMaker Thomas W. Cole

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Brenda H. Cole talks about attending a debutante ball while attending Weldon High School in Gladewater, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Brenda H. Cole describes her decision to attend Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Brenda H. Cole describes enrolling at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Brenda H. Cole recalls her childhood experiences of racism

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Brenda H. Cole recalls integrating the staff of the drugstore in Gladewater, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Brenda H. Cole describes her civil rights activities at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Brenda H. Cole describes her civil rights activities at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Brenda H. Cole talks about meeting Hamilton Holmes and HistoryMaker Charlayne Hunter-Gault

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Brenda H. Cole talks about the speakers and entertainers who visited Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Brenda H. Cole describes her semester as an exchange student at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Brenda H. Cole recalls her engagement to HistoryMaker Thomas W. Cole

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Brenda H. Cole recalls important incidents for the African American community in 1963

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Brenda H. Cole remembers her reaction to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Brenda H. Cole describes her experience in Texas and Chicago, Illinois after graduating from Spellman College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Brenda H. Cole describes leaving Chicago, Illinois for Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Brenda H. Cole remembers hearing about Juneteenth for the first time at Texas Woman's University in Denton, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Brenda H. Cole describes her experience returning to Atlanta, Georgia and receiving her master's degree in library science

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Brenda H. Cole describes volunteering at the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia and her decision to attend law school

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Brenda H. Cole describes her experience attending Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia while raising two children

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Brenda H. Cole describes beginning her work in the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Brenda H. Cole describes her experience working in tax law under Georgia Attorney General Arthur Bolton

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Brenda H. Cole recalls living in Atlanta, Georgia during the "missing and murdered children case"

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Brenda H. Cole describes her experience living in Institute, West Virginia

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Brenda H. Cole describes their decision to return to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Brenda H. Cole describes returning to the Office of the Attorney General in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Brenda H. Cole recalls being appointed as a State Court Judge for Georgia in 1998

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Brenda H. Cole reflects on her personal development

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Brenda H. Cole talks about her civic, social, and professional organizations

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Brenda H. Cole reflects upon her lack of regrets and her message for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Brenda H. Cole talks about her family, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Brenda H. Cole talks about her family, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Brenda H. Cole describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Brenda H. Cole narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

7$6

DATitle
Brenda H. Cole describes her civil rights activities at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 2
Brenda H. Cole recalls being appointed as a State Court Judge for Georgia in 1998
Transcript
And that continued until--I kept marching, kept picketing until one day we had a march at Grady [Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia]. Can you imagine Grady being segregated (laughing), but it was? And they had--the waiting room, they had separate waiting rooms and so we were marching to protest the segregation at Grady Hospital. And I'm just marching, I had been marching this time for some time, I mean not on this event, I mean on other occasions, without incident. The police were there, and in fact, one time we saw [Reverend Dr.] Martin Luther King [Jr.], he was just standing on the, you know sidewalks watching us and encouraging, us you know. But it got so that it was kind old hat in a way, I mean you just weren't expecting violence, it was tiring, and I mean to walk from Spelman's [Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia] campus to Grady was that was a nice hike. I (laughing) but anyway, we're marching going around at Grady, and we had not been at Grady very long and we heard police sirens. And I thought, "Uh oh, this is not good" (laughing) because I'm trying to--at this time I'm thinking my parents [Eulalia Hill Allen and Garfield Hill] are still saying, "Please do not participate in this protest." And Spelman, unbeknownst to me at the time, had sent them a letter saying "The students are protesting and do you want your daughter to participate," and they of course said "no." So, next thing I know police wagons are pulling up, loading up students. They packed up students, but it was a bunch of us down there, and do you know they ran out of paddy wag-paddy wagons just before they got to my group (laughing)? And I was so grateful, and so but I still, I waited there; they said "If you all are still here when we come back from processing these kids, we're coming back for you." I don't know if they ever came back but it was getting dark by then, and I was part marching with my girlfriend Mona [Rae Norman (ph.)], the one I met on the train? And she said, "I'm getting sick," I said, "Okay, she said you wanna go before it gets dark," 'cause I'm not sure I could've made it back to campus by myself. But the two of us made our way back with some other kids, we walked back.$Okay, and your next move would be?$$To the bench. I--actually the first person that put being a Judge on my brain was [Georgia Attorney General Michael] Mike Bowers. He called me in his office; he said he was on the Judicial Nominating Commission. And he said, "I want you to think about being a Judge, I want you to go through the process, apply for it. You not gonna get it the first time, but you'll be comfortable with the process." So I did what he told me to, I went through the process and I didn't get it and I didn't think about it again (laughing). I just, I was busy with my work and I was enjoying my work and so I just didn't think about it. But I had a friend who had been my classmate at Emory Law [Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia], she had been my co-worker at the attorney general's Office and she had been named to the Superior Court Bench, Judge Stephanie Manis. And Stephanie said "Well, this is the best job you'll ever have, you need to you know go ahead try this process one more time." So I said, "Well, I don't know," by then we had a new attorney general, [HM] Thurbert Baker. And Thurbert was the first black attorney general, so I wanted to help Thurbert out and I just said "Oh, I don't need this may not be a good time." So they said, well--Stephanie said well you know, Governor Zell Miller appointed her and he was appointing a lot of women (laughing). And she said, "You better at least give Zell a try, you don't know who the next Governor will be" (laughing). So, I was nominated and this time I allowed the nomination to go in, I asked Thurbert for his support, he gave to me. And he was the former floor leader for the Governor, so he appointed me.$$And that was in 1998?$$Um-hum.$$Okay. And you've been elected two other terms, is that right?$$Yes.$$Okay. Talk about after your appoint--appointment--after appointed as a Judge, this had to be quite different from what you were doing previously. You wanna talk about that?$$Well I was really afraid of the Criminal Law, because I've never done any Criminal Law. All of my practice had been in Civil, and in fact, Administrative Law, which is even different from Civil. But at least I got to go to court, argue rules of evidence, I went up on appeal, had the appellate practice, so I figured I could handle the Civil. But the Criminal I thought, "Oh, I'm really gonna have to go to school with this." Well it turns out that Criminal is easier that the Civil (laughing), Civil really is very grueling. But I went to several judicial training courses and there is a Council of State Court Judges that has training every year. So I would participate in that and my fellow Judges would help out, if there were problems or if I would run into, you know tough issue. So I was able to get over the freshman jitters and (laughing) and turned out to be a good career for me.