When asked if she could summarize her career in three words, Senior U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright replied without hesitation.
“I am blessed. I am fortunate,” she said.
Pausing, she added with a smile, “That’s six words, isn’t it?”
Wright, a former chief judge, professor, assistant dean, and law clerk, has journeyed far and accomplished much.
She’ll share some of that journey with the public on Saturday, May 16, when she delivers the keynote address to UALR Bowen School of Law graduates.
The talk will be recorded and later aired by the C-SPAN network, which is criss-crossing the country highlighting various commencement ceremony speeches. Bowen’s commencement is set for 12:30 p.m. in the Wally Allen Ballroom of the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
A family affair
Born in Texarkana to a family of lawyers, Wright decided to pursue law because of academic interest and familial influence.
She received her juris doctorate and master of public administration from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville following an undergraduate education at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia.
Immediately after graduating law school in 1975, Wright served as a law clerk to J. Smith Henley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The following year she started teaching at UALR Bowen School of Law where she would remain for the next 14 years.
An opportunity presented itself to Wright in 1990 when her former employer and mentor, U.S. House Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt, recommended her to President George H.W. Bush for the vacancy of the Eastern District of Arkansas.
“I never set out to be a judge,” she said. “The opportunity knocked, and I decided to take advantage of it.”
During this time, she also served as chief judge of the district for seven years.
In 1998, she received national attention when she dismissed the sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Paula Jones against President Bill Clinton.
“I’ve had a lot of memorable cases, and they all changed my life when I had them, but I can’t say that any has changed my life permanently,” she said.
Wright still serves as U.S. District Judge in the Eastern District of Arkansas, and she took senior status in 2013.
With a life full of many roles, Wright is motivated to follow the law and be fair.
“I’m influenced by judges who have been my mentors, and I’m influenced by the law and the constitution,” she said.