Friday, November 20, 2015

R.I.P. Judge Peggy Ready, Florida's First Lesbian Judge?

Former St. Augustine Record Opinion Editor Margo Pope has written a lovely obituary on Judge Peggy Ready, not only our first woman judge in St. Johns County, but probably our first Lesbian Judge in the State of Florida.
Judge Ready declared several City of St. Augustine laws unconstitutional, including a dodgy noise ordinance challenged by Stogie's cigar bar, a law that was unadorned by reference to scientific measurements.
It appears that Judge Ready may have been Florida's first Lesbian Judge, appointed to the bench in 1990 by Governor Robert Martinez.  Internet sources list a South Florida compensation claims appointed in 1992, two years later, as the first "openly Gay judge" in Florida. Why quibble?  Labels are for jars.
R.I.P. Judge Peggy Ready, a true pathfinder in the law.

County's 1st female judge dies at age 77
Posted: November 19, 2015 - 11:49pm | Updated: November 20, 2015 - 6:11am
By Margo C. Pope
The Record contributor
The life of Peggy Elizabeth Ready could easily have been defined by the “firsts” she accomplished in her two long-running careers, the U.S. Army and the legal profession: command of the first all-women Army unit in a combat zone in Vietnam, the first woman commandant of an Army Reserve school, the first woman assistant public defender in St. Johns County and the county’s first woman judge.

Judge Ready, 77, died Sunday in Blairsville, Georgia, after a long-term illness. She moved to the North Georgia town after leaving St. Augustine.

It was because of Judge Ready that County Court Judge Patti Christensen, of the 7th Judicial Circuit, began her judicial career.

“When Peggy retired, she said, ‘Why don’t you apply for my job?’ I had not thought about being a judge, I was happy practicing law,” Christensen said.

She admired Ready and took her advice, applied and received the appointment from then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

“I would not be a judge today if it were not for Peggy,” Christensen said. “She was a trendsetter, a historic person,”

Ready, a native of Eudora, Arkansas, grew up in Greenville, Mississippi. She received her bachelor’s degree from Blue Mountain College in Mississippi, where she majored in speech and English. After graduation, she joined the American Red Cross and served as a “Donut Dolly” in Korea.

She then headed to New York City to become a playwright. “But, I did not have that kind of talent,” she told the St. Augustine Record for a 2000 article announcing her retirement.

She returned to the Red Cross and served in France and Morocco before joining the Women’s Army Corps. She was commissioned a first lieutenant in 1965. In 1966, she was in Vietnam near Saigon. Her Army career, active duty and reserve, spanned more than 28 years. She retired in 1993 as a colonel.

Her decision to attend the University of South Carolina law school led her to transfer to the Army Reserve. Her military decorations included the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Army Reserve Components Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon, Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry.

After law school, she came to St. Augustine. In 1984, she met future county court Judge Charles “Chuck” Tinlin, then an intern in the public defender’s office, where she was division chief. When Tinlin graduated, Ready, by then in private practice, gave him his first job with the firm of Meredith, Dobson, Ready and Reynolds. They later shared county court duties. They also shared a birthday, Jan. 12.

“She treated people with respect,” Tinlin said. “She always had a smile, was thoughtful, smart, diligent. Peggy could be tough as nails when she needed to be. She was a wonderful friend.”

Ready also met another lawyer who would impact her career while she was in the public defender’s office, Geoff Dobson. Later, he and Olin Meredith asked her to join their practice, and the firm became known as Meredith, Dobson and Ready.

“I found her to be very competent, very easy to get along with. She was a good all-around lawyer,” Dobson said.

Ready was the first of three future judges in the firm. The others were Tinlin and Christensen. Ready left in 1988 for the state attorney’s office. In 1990, Gov. Bob Martinez appointed her as a county court judge in the 7th Judicial Circuit.

Bob Mathis, a county court judge and then a circuit judge, remembered Ready as “a compassionate, excellent judge, honest to a fault, always willing and able to help the other judges. When you talked to her, it made your whole day better.”

But, Mathis said, she endured some derogatory comments, too. “It was unusual to have a woman judge. Some (defendants) didn’t want to show her the respect she deserved. But she conducted herself in such a way that they had to give her respect.”

In retirement, Ready and her life partner, Janie Miller, traveled to Alaska in their RV from St. Augustine, where they joined an all-women’s caravan for 40 days. Their RV travels continued throughout the United States and Canada for several years. Ready enjoyed hiking and celebrated her 60th birthday by hiking the 30-mile Inca Trail from Cusco to Machu Picchu in Peru.

Ready was a member of the Blairsville Vietnam Vets chapter, the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, the Women in Military Service for American Memorial Foundation, Relay for Life and numerous other charitable organizations.

In addition to Miller, Ready is survived by her brother, David Ready, of Greenville, Mississippi, and her three dogs, Tumble, Reno and Copper. Her parents, Audrey and Cliff Ready, and a sister, Susan Ready, preceded her in death.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, 9th District. A celebration of her life will be at her home at a later date. She will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Cochran Funeral Home and Crematory of Blairsville ( is in charge of arrangements.

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