Celebrate with us the life of Clare Sekul Hornsby

Clare Sekul Hornsby swears in Andrew "FoFo" Gilich as mayor of Biloxi, Monday, May 18, 2015.
Clare Sekul Hornsby swears in Andrew "FoFo" Gilich as mayor of Biloxi, Monday, May 18, 2015. ttisbell@sunherald.com

Clare Sekul Hornsby, who died Tuesday at 95, was a legend and a role model.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t know there was any such thing as a glass ceiling,” Hornsby’s niece, Jaye Brice, told the Sun Herald’s Tammy Smith. “I had an aunt who was a lawyer, and I just knew that I could be anything I wanted to be.”

Hornsby excelled in a world and a field dominated by men, graduating from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1945, the only woman in her class. Trailblazing Lt. Gov. Evelyn Gandy was her roommate.

Gandy, who died in 2007, once said Hornsby “opened many doors for women in general and certainly for women lawyers” and called her “one of our state’s most distinguished leaders.”

Hornsby’s car tag read “D VORCE” and her professional life was dedicated to trying to rescue families and children in trouble. Brice said her aunt would sit down with a warring husband and wife and ask a simple question: “Is there any room for reconciliation?”

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, Brice’s brother, remembered Hornsby as a strong advocate for women.

“My Aunt Clare always wanted to make things right,” he said. “She wanted to make things right when a woman wasn’t treated right.”

Tributes from those whose lives she touched flowed across social media as the Coast learned she had died.

“Trailblazer.” “Something else.” “A treat.” “Renaissance woman.”

She told the Sun Herald in 2005 that when she began her practice, she’d take most any case, sometimes accepting pecans or shrimp as payment. Later, a successful attorney, she specialized in family matters and did about half of her adoptions for free, according to her grandson, Dub Hornsby.

“If people had a real need, she just saw it through,” he said. “She had a husband who was able to help set her up. She didn’t practice law for the money, that’s for sure.”

Her parents, immigrants from Yugoslavia as children who grew up to run a grocery and seafood business, had expected her to become a lawyer.

“Nobody told them it was a man’s world and I didn’t know it, either,” she said.

She was, in short, a character. She carried a starter pistol and discharged it to announce her presence. She was known for colorfully decorated stockings, a fashion trend attributed to her late husband, Warren. Thanks to the generosity of her husband and friends, she had 2,500 pairs. She also wore a mouse pin on her left shoulder to get your attention.

She was a woman of faith who was active in civic groups as well. A candle on her desk was dedicated to St. Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes who, she said, “has to work overtime on me.”

So as we mourn her death, we also celebrate the life of Clare Sekul Hornsby.

The life of a role model.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.