Circuit Judge Jenifer Holt peered across the courtroom as proceedings began. With a stern look, Holt told a TV reporter to cut off her recording device, as no such things are allowed in the courtroom.

Heads bowed, as if mom had spoken. The moral of the story is Judge Holt commanded respect, and you did what she said in her courtroom.

For little girls, and even boys, she will always be a hero. She showed how to bust through a man’s world and stand tall.

She was the city’s first female attorney, opening her own office. She was the county’s first, and only, female circuit judge.

Holt was elected as circuit judge in 1996, and then ran unopposed in 2002, 2008 and 2014. As her fourth term comes to an end, and after 24 years, she will step away, ride off into the sunset, in retirement come January.

Holt has served longer than any other circuit judge in Jackson County history, a testament to the job she has done, the duty she has served.

She’s presided over cases that received national attention, in her 24 years. Holt presided over one of the worst murder trials in county history, which sent a man to death row, the first and only such trial in at least modern history.

A judge in most cases isn’t going to make friends. As the late Circuit Judge Loy Campbell told Holt as he was leaving office, “people don’t like seeing their kids sent to prison.”

She always did her job, by the law, even as hurt feelings occurred.

Years ago, Holt, along with others, helped Jackson County bring in courthouse security, the last county in North Alabama to do so. She stood up to a county commission bent on not bringing security to the courthouse.

Her legacy will be lasting.

DeWayne Patterson is the editor and publisher of The Jackson County Sentinel. He can be reached at

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