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Long-Serving DeKalb Lawyer Spent Career Wanting To Make Difference

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Long-Serving DeKalb Lawyer Spent Career Wanting To Make Difference

One former DeKalb County lawyer made her career out of a desire to help her community.

Sue Puckett-Jernigan was a lawyer in DeKalb County for more than 36 years. She started working at the county clerk’s office as a senior in high school and then as a legal secretary as an adult.

“I have worked for six of the lawyers in Smithville, just about all of them at the time,” Puckett-Jernigan said. “And I decided that I wanted to go to law school myself because I couldn’t advance any more than being a legal secretary. But I had to go to college first.”

Puckett-Jernigan went to UT-Nashville while working for four lawyers, and also attended YMCA night law school. She then started her own practice making her the first female lawyer in DeKalb County, which presented its own challenges.

“This guy that I knew from being a legal secretary that came,” Puckett-Jernigan said. “And he said to me ‘Well, I just really would rather a man standing by me when I go to court.’ Well you know he was one of the first people that came to see me when he needed me to do something for him? I had two or three instances like that.”

Puckett-Jernigan also served her community outside of her practice. She was on the school board for 12 years, worked with Habitat for Humanity, and served as a Cub Scout leader. She said throughout her life, she’s wanted to be a source of support in the world.

“I just love to help people,” Puckett-Jernigan said. “That’s the thing about it. We need to look outward, not inward.”

Puckett-Jernigan retired from her decades-long time in the workforce last October, leaving her practice to her niece. She said that if anybody is looking to follow their dreams, to go for it.

“It is never too late to further your education,” Puckett-Jernigan said. “I am living proof of this. You have to set goals in life and work toward them. Think highly of yourself. If you don’t, no one else will.”


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