Sharon G. Lee (’75, ’78)

Category: Awards | Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna

2022 Distinguished Alumnus Award Winner

Justice Sharon G. Lee has focused her career on seeking justice, first as a small-town lawyer and later on the Tennessee Supreme Court. A graduate of the Webb School of Knoxville, Lee attended Vanderbilt University and graduated with high honors from UT in 1975 with a degree in accounting. Three years later, she earned a law degree with honors from the UT College of Law.

Throughout her career, she has broken the glass ceiling multiple times by being the “first woman” to serve. Lee was the only female lawyer in her hometown of Madisonville, Tennessee. In her home state, she was also the first woman to serve as Monroe County Attorney, as Madisonville and Vonore City Attorney, and as Madisonville City Judge. In 2004, Lee began her judicial career being the first woman to serve on the Eastern Section of the Tennessee Court of Appeals in its 79-year history. When she was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2008, Lee secured the court’s first-ever female majority. She served as the Court’s Chief Justice from 2014 to 2016. During her tenure as Chief Justice, she promoted access to justice, establishment of the state’s first business court pilot project, implementation of electronic filing, a review of the state’s indigent representation system, and a docket cleanup initiative.

Lee has received numerous honors and recognitions including UT Centennial Alumnus, UT Alumni Professional Achievement Award, the Webb School of Knoxville Distinguished Alumni Award, the YWCA Woman of Achievement Award, and the National Association of Women Judges’ Spotlight Award.

Lee’s family history was fundamental in her drive for success. Her father was a World War II prisoner of war—his optimism, discipline, and desire to live instilled in Lee a calling to serve. She has shared the war stories of her father and other prisoners of war with numerous community and student groups.

Lee is actively involved in the community, having served as a board member of the YWCA of Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley Authority, the YWCA Foundation, the Monroe County Boys and Girls Club, and the East Tennessee Historical Society. She has contributed to the UT College of Law through presentations and council appointments and has held leadership roles within lawyer and judge associations for women.