In study after study, Oklahoma falls towards the bottom, especially where women are concerned. But, true to the Oklahoma spirit, when faced with great adversity, many times, success prevails. The women of our state can impact great change. We have highlighted five women who decided to impact their world for the betterment of their gender.
Making History, Impacting Lives
Judge Sharon Holmes took an unlikely path to becoming the first female black district judge in Tulsa County.
“I started law school late in life,” admits Holmes. “I didn’t go to law school until I was 40.”
Holmes received her bachelor’s degree on an ROTC scholarship and then spent six years in the Air Force on the security police force. After being stationed in Montana and two tours in Germany, Holmes decided it was time for a different phase of life.
“I decided to focus on being a mother,” shares Holmes.
Inspired by a friend years earlier, Holmes enrolled at Oklahoma City University in 1996. She graduated three years later and went to work for the Tulsa County District Attorney’s office as an assistant D.A. In 2003, Holmes ventured into private practice. This past November all that changed.
“When I was in private practice, I hadn’t thought about being a judge,” confesses Holmes. “Friends planted that seed, and over time the idea started to appeal to me.”
When you see an individual that everyone else has given up on use the tools given to them to complete their probation or program and come out a better person, that is what inspires me.”
In a few whirlwind months, that idea became a reality. She filed to run in February 2014 and was officially sworn in on Jan. 12, 2015.
“It took about 30 minutes to get us all sworn in, and then we all went straight to work,” remembers Holmes. “I don’t think I can express how humbled I am to get this position. It is a big responsibility, and the people of Tulsa County deserve a person who understands that and will always do the right thing. When the people of a community show you that confidence, I have a heavy burden to do my best.”
Holmes believes her unique position and life experiences allow her to help those in great need who enter her courtroom.
“People typically look at the criminal system as the worst, but there are successes that come out of it,” says Holmes. “The position I am in now gives me a little more authority to get them the resources they need.
“When you see an individual that everyone else has given up on use the tools given to them to complete their probation or program and come out a better person, that is what inspires me,” explains Holmes. “When you see people come out a success, I relish that.”
As a woman and a mother, Holmes prefers to utilize alternative services rather than a prison sentence, where appropriate.
“Unfortunately, there are people who need jail time,” says Holmes. “But for others, there are wonderful programs that teach life skills and drug treatment to help them reincorporate into society as a valuable contributor.”
When she takes off the robe, Holmes educates youth on the judiciary process. Many of her friends and family feel she is a role model for women. Her life motto is if you want something you can get it by working hard.
“You don’t always have to do things in a traditional way,” encourages Holmes.