Today is Saturday, August 19, 2017

Woman of Wilson: Clara Byrd

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Judge Clara Byrd is proud to be the namesake of her beloved "Nana," Clara Holbrook Smith.

In a time when many jobs weren't available to women, Smith found a noble profession as a seamstress - which allowed her to provide for her children and grandchildren and kept them the "best dressed children anywhere," according to Byrd.

Smith was married to Byrd's grandfather until becoming a widow at the age of 65 but always loved to be financially independent. "She encouraged all of the girls to be educated, talented, independent and self-supporting," Byrd said.

Byrd, who serves Wilson, Smith, Macon, Trousdale and Jackson Counties as a judge, certainly embodies those qualities.

Born in Alabama, Byrd was raised all over the South for the first 18 years of her life. She said that her father was a Baptist Minister and they moved around Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana and Georgia until her education brought her to Tennessee.

It was her husband, Bob Byrd, who brought the young attorney to Wilson County 33 years ago.

"I met Bob in Nashville where he commuted to work from Lebanon," she said. "He was raised in Wilson County... I married him and adopted Wilson County as my home."

She also became a step-mother to children Tracy Byrd and Jeff Byrd.

The Byrds now have seven grandchildren - Lauren, Emily, Morgan, Jake, Tori, Jackson and Caroline; and one great-grandchild, Ashtyn. They also have fur-babies, three dogs, Maddy, Jesse and Mickey; and two cats, Rusty and Ivy.

When she isn't with her family or enjoying hobbies such as boating and gardening, Byrd can be found in the courtroom helping families settle their domestic issues.

"The most rewarding part of my job is seeing a child who has been abandoned or abused be adopted into a loving, caring family," she said, before explaining some of the more challenging aspects of serving as judge for the past 16 years.

"In family law, when couples decide to live apart, there is never enough money to support the two households and never enough time to divide between the children. The most challenging part is trying to develop a parenting plan that maximizes the parenting time available when the parents are not at work and the children are not at school."

The women she most admires are her Nana and her mother, Kathleen Holbrook Willis.

"My mom married my dad at age 16. She worked to help him go to college and then seminary. She then became a full-time housewife and somehow managed Dad's meager salary to support them and five daughters," Byrd said. "When I started to college, she started to cosmetology school so she would be able to support herself if something happened to Dad. She received her license and later became an instructor.

"She taught herself computers skills and at age 79, she is a manager for the American Kidney Foundation. Mom has been tenacious in her desire to learn new things and work... I admire her for the way she has fought through adversity, even kidney cancer and debilitating arthritis and refuses to give in or give up," Byrd continued.

"She has steadfastly maintained her strong faith in God despite the death of her husband and one of her daughters. Regardless of the pain, she pushes through and still maintains a cheerful spirit."

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at

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Clara Byrd, Woman of Wilson, WOW
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