November 12, 2007
Judge Hatchett: Passion leads to unexpected path
By amye walters
The petite frame of Judge Glenda Hatchett '77L cloaks an amazing mix of compassion, drive and intelligence. "Let's not forget we owe a debt, and pay that debt forward," she challenged those attending the first installment of Smith, Gambrell & Russell's lecture series. The event was sponsored by the firm and the Emory Black Law Students Association as a part of November's Unity Month. Returning to Tull Auditorium was an "emotional" experience for Hatchett, whose first memory of the room was during student orientation in the fall of 1974.
In the three decades since her graduation from the Emory School of Law, she has served as a top-ranking manager for Delta Air Lines, presided over Fulton County's Juvenile Court, authored a best-seller and currently helms her eponymous syndicated television show. "While you're busy planning, God may have something else for your path," said Hatchett of the route her career has taken. She "did not plan on being a judge or even a lawyer." She said, "I came here because I didn't know how to use the political science and history degree I got from Mount Holyoke."
Her first job was with Delta where she was a senior attorney and manager of public relations. She admits her expectation was to retire from the airline after reaching the status of senior vice president and board member. When asked to take over the juvenile courtroom of the late Judge Romae Powell, she "didn't want to leave" Delta. "I was on the fast track but not on track to meet my passion," she said.
Hatchett was selected from 63 applicants and sworn in on Oct. 1, 1990. For her, being on the bench became a difficult and emotionally trying job, but it was where she "was supposed to be." She found her passion in making a difference in children's lives, and she urges others to find this as well. "Do something in this life's journey that lives beyond you," she said. Hatchett would like to see intergenerational after-school programs open across the country, in both inner-city and suburban landscapes. The centers would involve families, senior citizens and school children, and stay open until 9 or 10 p.m. According to Hatchett, it is a means for kids to become part of a rewoven community.
Family is of utmost importance to Hatchett. In fact, it's why she resigned from her judgeship: to be at home for her son during his senior year of high school. And she was grateful when Sony Pictures called later that year proposing "Judge Hatchett." In it she saw the opportunity to help others in her televised courtroom and pay for the college tuition bills to come. Yet the show isn't Hatchett's last stepping stone. She "feels the need to keep growing" and said she "thinks she can do more," including publishing a new book next fall.
Hatchett's parting words of wisdom were twofold: “Let there be something in your life that you are passionate about and are willing to pour yourself into, and be open to the possibilities.”