In 1995, at the age of 38, Justice Holly Kirby became a gender milestone, the first woman in Tennessee history to serve on the Tennessee Court of Appeals. In 2014, after she had served on the intermediate appellate court for almost 19 years, Justice Kirby was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court by Governor Bill Haslam. She was elected Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 2023.
A lifelong Tennessean, Justice Kirby was born in Memphis and graduated from high school in Columbia, Tennessee. As an undergraduate at the University of Memphis, she held a number of student leadership positions and graduated in 1979 with high honors, with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. In 1982, Justice Kirby graduated from the University of Memphis School of Law with high honors, and served on the Law Review editorial board as the Notes Editor. Justice Kirby is the first graduate of the University of Memphis to sit on the State’s High Court.
Upon graduation from law school, Justice Kirby served as judicial law clerk to Judge Harry Wellford on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. After her clerkship, Justice Kirby joined the Memphis law firm of Burch, Porter & Johnson, where she specialized in employment litigation and was active in politics and community service. From 1989-1994, Justice Kirby was a member of the Tennessee Appellate Court Nominating Commission, and she served as the Commission’s Chair in 1994. When the Burch Porter law firm selected Justice Kirby as a partner in 1990, she became the firm’s first female partner.
Justice Kirby served the State’s judicial ethics regulatory body during virtually the entirety of her career on the Tennessee Court of Appeals, first as a member of an independent ethics panel for the Court of the Judiciary from 1998-2012, and then as a member of the Board of Judicial Conduct from 2012 until her appointment to the Supreme Court in 2014.
A career appellate jurist, Justice Kirby has participated in many thousands of appellate decisions and has authored well over a thousand opinions from appeals all across the state. From the time of her appointment to the Court of Appeals in 1995 to the present, Justice Kirby has won 6 statewide elections, in 1996, 1998, 2006, 2014, 2016, and 2022.
Justice Kirby was chosen as Outstanding Young Alumna for the University of Memphis in 1996, Outstanding Alumna for the University of Memphis College of Engineering in 2002, and Special Distinguished Alumna for the University of Memphis School of Law in 2016. She has received the Marion Griffin-Frances Loring Award from the Memphis Association for Women Attorneys, the Distinguished Leadership Award from Women in Numbers, and was named Community Mother of the Year by the Tennessee Justice Center. She is married to Memphis businessman Russell Ingram and has two grown children. The family belongs to Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis.
- Judicial law clerk to Honorable Harry W. Wellford, Sixth Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals, 1982-83.
- Appointed in 1995 by Governor Don Sundquist as the first woman in Tennessee history to serve on the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Won statewide retention elections to the Tennessee Court of Appeals in 1996, 1998, 2006, and 2014.
- Appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court by Governor Bill Haslam effective September 1, 2014, and won statewide retention elections to the Supreme Court in 2016 and 2022.
Upon completing her judicial clerkship for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1983, Judge Kirby joined the Memphis law firm of Burch, Porter & Johnson, where she specialized in employment litigation. In 1990, she was elected a partner, the firm's first female partner. She remained at Burch, Porter & Johnson until her appointment to the bench.
- Outstanding Young Alumna, The University of Memphis
- Outstanding Alumna, The University of Memphis College of Engineering
- Special Distinguished Alumna for the University of Memphis School of Law
- Marion Griffin-Frances Loring Award, Memphis Association for Women Attorneys
- Distinguished Leadership Award, Women in Numbers
- Community Mother of the Year, Tennessee Justice Center
- Fellow, American Bar Foundation
- Fellow, Tennessee Bar Foundation
- Fellow, Memphis and Shelby County Bar Foundation
- Board of Judicial Conduct, 2012-2014
- Court of the Judiciary, member of independent ethics panel, 1998-2012
- Council of State Governments, Interbranch Committee
- Tennessee Judicial Conference, Executive Committee
- Tennessee Appellate Court Nominating Commission, 1989-94, chair, 1994
- Leo Bearman Sr. American Inn of Court, 1995-98 and 2022-present
- Tennessee Bar Association
- Tennessee Lawyers' Association for Women
- Memphis and Shelby County Bar Association
- Shelby County Association for Women Attorneys
100 Peabody Place
Memphis, TN 38103