Women Lawyers ~ Women Leaders Arch
Alice Truman was born on Christmas Eve, 1922 in the small town of Waggoner, Illinois. Alice was the youngest of three children and had an older brother and sister. Her older brother was always an inspiration to her and was actually the person who pushed her to law school. Her brother went to law school and got Alice excited by it as well. Alice got her undergraduate and law degree both from University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.
Alice started law school in 1942, while she was still working on her undergraduate history degree. She started with a class of around 300 people and then, because of the Second World War, graduated with five others, four women and one man. Alice had no trouble getting a job right out of school; she was employed with a law firm in Chicago for a year. After that she moved with her first husband to a small town in Colorado called Aurora. In Aurora, Alice worked with another attorney and did general practice till she was appointed justice of the peace. While Alice was justice of the peace in Colorado she dealt only with traffic cases that patrolman would bring directly to her. She held court in her living room while her children played next to her. She was paid between three to five dollars for each case she heard. Alice did this for a few years until she was divorced from her first husband and moved to Arizona to be with her family.
When Alice first moved to Arizona, she had to find some way to support her two children, but had to wait 6 months before she could take the bar in Arizona. Alice went to the courthouse and found a women working in Legal Aid, Frances Wallace who told her that a very prominent attorney, Clarence Houston, needed a secretary and to go see him about the position. Alice did, and was given the job; she could not do shorthand but told the Clarence that she could. So not only was she preparing to take the bar for the third time, she also had to try to teach herself shorthand! During the time she worked with Clarence she helped try a famous case, State v. Stracuzzi, which changed the law on insanity cases.
Alice had an interesting start into private practice and being elected justice of the peace in Tucson. Alice and her family were involved in an automobile accident and brought a civil lawsuit to recover for damages. She got the best prosecutor she could, Morris Udall, and was able to collect $42,000, which at the time was a lot of money. With that money her husband opened up a hardware store, and she had her private practice.
After working in private practice for a while, her husband encouraged her to run for justice of the peace in Tucson. She agreed, since she enjoyed doing it in Colorado and thought she would be electable because of her last name and because she was a woman. Her husband used the hardware store to make signs for her to put along the road and she had television spots as well. Alice beat out five other opponents, all male, to become the first woman elected as justice of the peace in Pima County. While serving as the justice of the peace Alice handled some very important cases, including one against County Attorney Harry Ackerman. She also had to deal with a not so glamorous part of the job, being a coroner. When a doctor could not determine how someone died, the justice of the peace was called in to determine if it was a homicide. Alice had to view lots of bodies during her time, and would have to determine if there was foul play involved. After serving for many years as justice of the peace, Alice decided to run for Superior Court judge.
Alice had a choice between running against another woman, Mary Anne Richey, or a man Richard Roylston. Alice decided to run against Mary Anne because Richard's twin brother was already a judge, and Alice did not want to worry if people were for or against her because she is a woman. Alice was the first women to be elected to the Superior Court, and served the court for 30 years. During that time Alice worked on having a specialized probate court, and later became to presiding probate judge. She also handled criminal, civil and juvenile cases during her time on the court. One case in particular that stands out is when she had to impose the death penalty on a man who was convicted for brutally killing a woman. Alice had to tape the man's mouth shut during sentencing in order to be able to tell him his sentence and, although this sounds strange, it was upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court.
Alice was a truly respected and honored jurist in Arizona. Alice helped found the National Association of Women Judges and the Arizona Women Lawyers Association. She won the State Bar's Outstanding Jurist Award, the Tucson Women's business Association Women of the Year Award and received lifetime recognition from a justice of the peace organization. Alice was an amazing jurist and a trailblazer for women.