Presiding Judge Virginia Carlton honored with Rotary Champion of Change Award

May 11, 2021

Mississippi Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Virginia C. Carlton was honored with the Champion of Change Award presented by the Women in Rotary Committee of Rotary District 6820.

Judge Carlton is a member of the North Jackson Rotary Club. The award was presented at a luncheon on May 11 in Jackson.

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Judge Carlton was honored as “a longstanding female Rotarian with unique and stellar accomplishments,” said Ed Thurman of Lexington, District Governor of Rotary District 6820, which includes 45 Rotary clubs. Judge Carlton was recognized for her judicial and military careers.

The award presentation was delayed for 14 months due to COVID-19. The ceremony was originally scheduled for March 17, 2020.

The award celebrates the accomplishments of women professionals for their careers and contributions to their communities, said Barbara Travis, chair of the Women in Rotary Committee. The award is officially called the Sylvia Whitlock Champion of Change Award, named for one of the first three women who joined the formerly all male service organization in 1987 in California.

Judge Carlton said she became a Rotarian for the first time when the Rotary Club of her hometown, Columbia, asked her to join in 2000. She was among the first women to be invited to join the Columbia Rotary Club.

“Scott and I really are dedicated to community service,” she said, referring to her husband, Dr. Scott Carlton, a family practice physician. Rotary Club gives her an opportunity to be involved in community service projects. Most recently, the North Jackson Rotary Club planted maple trees at Parham Bridges Park, and will install benches. The club adopted an elementary campus to keep up the grounds, and members provide dictionaries to school children.

“Scott and I both are military and came up through the ranks,” she said. They were both indoctrinated in the “be, know and do” principles of leadership. “It’s not enough to develop competence if you don’t act on it,” she said.

Judge Carlton became a presiding judge of the Court of Appeals on Feb. 1, 2019. She is the second woman to attain the position of Presiding Judge on the Court of Appeals. Four women currently serve on that court. She has served on the Court of Appeals for more than 14 years; she was elected in November 2006 and first took the oath of office in January 2007.

Her career of public service includes state and local government as well as military service. The Columbia native served as State Representative for Mississippi House District 100 from January 2004 through December 2006. She also served as an assistant district attorney and county public defender.

Judge Carlton’s more than 24 years in the military included active duty, Reserve and National Guard duty. She retired in February 2015 at the rank of Colonel. Upon her retirement, she was awarded the Magnolia Cross and the Legion of Merit Award. As a U.S. Army JAG officer, she served as prosecutor, defense counsel, deputy staff judge advocate, staff judge advocate, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Army in Hawaii. She was merit selected to serve as a military trial judge. She was subsequently selected to serve as an associate military appellate judge on the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals, where she participated in approximately 90 cases and served as lead judge in 40 cases. She also served as a Command and General Staff College instructor.

Her military awards and medals include the Legion of Merit; Meritorious Service Medal (7th Award); Army Commendation Medal (4th Award); Army Reserve Component’s Achievement Medal (3rd Award); National Defense Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon (1); and Armed Forces Reserve Medal (with M Device and with 10 year device). She was also awarded the German Sports Medal during her tour of duty in Germany.

She received a B.B.A. degree from the University of Mississippi in 1986 and earned her Juris Doctor in 1989 from the University of Mississippi School of Law. As an undergraduate, she served in the campus Senate and was a member of the Chi Omega sorority, Tau Chapter. During law school, she served on the Mississippi Law Journal, the Moot Court Board and its Executive Board, and as clerk of Mays Inn of Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity. She began her legal career as a Supreme Court law clerk. She is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and Staff College and a graduate of the U.S. Army War College. She holds a Master Degree of Strategic Studies.

Judge Carlton actively contributes to the bench and bar. She serves on the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission and on the Board of Governors of the Mississippi Judicial College. She previously served as co-chair of the Mississippi Commission on Children’s Justice, and on the Mississippi Supreme Court Rules Advisory Committee. She was an adjunct professor at Mississippi College School of Law and at Belhaven University. Judge Carlton often teaches continuing education classes at the request of the Mississippi Bar, the Mississippi Judicial College and other organizations.

She is a past Secretary of the Jackson Prep performing arts booster club (“Applause Board”); Chi Omega Sorority Jackson Metro Area Alumni Association; and past Jackson Symphony League Ball Chair. She previously served as a board member of the Tri-Community Fire Department and as a member of the Junior Auxiliary Club in Marion County.

Judge Carlton is admitted to practice in all Mississippi courts and before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. She is a member of the Mississippi Bar and American Bar Association. In 2010, she was named one of the top 50 women in business by the Mississippi Business Journal. In 2012, she was selected as a Fellow of the Mississippi Bar Foundation, and in 2013, as a Woman of the Year by the Mississippi Commission for the Status of Women for her military service. She was named Outstanding Legislator for Juvenile Justice. The Mississippi Association of Adult & Community Education named her 2004-2006 South Mississippi Friend of Adult Education.