Former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Clement Clay “Bo” Torbert Jr. — an Opelika native who attended Auburn University — has died. He was 88 years old.
Torbert died Saturday, June 2, 2018, at his home in Opelika.
"He was highly respected, universally admired and was regarded by his peers as one of the best jurists of his time and is one of the best jurists that Alabama has ever produced," Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said. "He was a man of impeccable integrity and was an outstanding example of a true public servant. Those that were fortunate enough to call him friend will surely miss him."
Torbert, who grew up in Lee County and attended Opelika public schools, later made his way to the United States Naval Academy and graduated from Auburn in 1951, where he swam on the school's swim team.
He graduated from the University of Alabama Law School in 1954 and was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives only four years later in 1958.
In 1966, he was elected to the Alabama Senate, where he would serve two terms. Torbert, over the course of his years, would make his way to the top of Alabama's judicial branch and make his mark as one of Alabama's most well-respected Supreme Court justices.
In 1976, he was elected as chief justice at the age of 47. He would serve two six-year terms as the state's chief judicial officer until 1988.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
A statue honoring Torbert now sits outside the Alabama Supreme Court in Montgomery, and the Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building – the headquarters of Alabama's unified judicial system and home to the Supreme Court – also bears his name.
"He was an awesome chief justice and super senator," said State Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn. "I am proud to follow in his footsteps as the senator from Lee County. He will be greatly missed but the thing I remember about Torbert the most was that he always had time to talk to me when I was a kid and that meant a lot."
Before beginning his career in public service, Torbert had a law firm in Opelika, first with Bill Dickinson and later joining Yetta Samford to form Samford & Torbert. Torbert was a lifelong, active member of the First United Methodist Church in Opelika.
During his tenure as chief justice, he was active in national and international judicial organizations, serving as president of the Conference of Chief Justices, chairman of the National Center for State Courts and chairman of the State Justice Institute.
Torbert taught at both the University of Alabama School of Law and Cumberland School of Law after he left the Supreme Court, later joining the law firm Maynard, Cooper & Gale where he practiced until his retirement.
The former chief justice was a lifelong hunter, conservationist, historian and outdoorsman, his family said in his obituary. He loved his family, the state of Alabama, bird hunting and the camaraderie he found in the company of friends.
Torbert is survived by his wife Gene Hurt Torbert and his three children, Dixie Alton (Mitch), Shealy Cook (Penn), and Clay Torbert (Cindy), as well as his five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Torbert was preceded in death by his parents, Clement C. Torbert, Sr. and Lynda Meadows Torbert.
A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, at 2 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Opelika. The family will receive visitors in the Fellowship Hall at 12:30 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Alzheimers Association (alz.org), the First United Methodist Church, 702 Avenue A, Opelika, Alabama 36801, or the charity of your choice.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman