Alabama Academy of Honor

Howell Thomas Heelin

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1974 and 2005.

Howell T. Heflin, an outstanding practicing attorney, became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama with a program to reform and modernize the judicial system in Alabama. In his first foray into Alabama politics he became the first Chief Justice since 1906 to be elected without previously having been appointed to the position.

Born in Paulen, Georgia, the son of a Methodist minister, Justice Heflin grew up in North Alabama and attended Birmingham-Southern College. Following service as a Marine officer in World War II, he received his law degree from the University of Alabama and began his law practice in Tuscumbia. He was president of the Colbert County Bar Association and the Alabama Bar Association and the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association. He was also a fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the American College of Trial Lawyers, the International Society of Barristers, and the Institute of Judicial Administration.

As well as taking a keen interest in the Law School at the University of Alabama, he taught at the University and at Florence State University, was chairman of the Alabama Teachers Tenure Commission, president of the Alabama Committee for Better Schools, and chairman of the Tuscumbia Board of Education.

Justice Heflin successfully brought about reforms in the Alabama judicial system which have simplified judicial procedure and speeded up the judicial process. For these accomplishments he received the American Judicature Society's award for modernization of the judiciary.

Heflin was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978, and re-elected in 1984 and 1990. He retired in 1997.

Howell Heflin died on March 29, 2005.