Retired Lynchburg Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Dale Hutter Harris died Oct. 21. She was 90.
A Lynchburg native, Judge Harris earned her bachelor’s degree from Sweet Briar College, where she served as president of student government and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Later, Judge Harris returned to school, earning a master’s degree in education from Lynchburg College.
In her early 40s, Judge Harris decided to attend law school and earned her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1978. She earned her degree on the same weekend as her 25th college reunion.
Judge Harris began her legal career at the Lynchburg law firm Davies and Peters. In 1980, she was appointed as a substitute judge for the 24th Judicial District, the first woman from the Lynchburg area to be named to the bench.
In 1982, Judge Harris became the first full-time female judge in the 24th Judicial District when she was appointed to the Lynchburg Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. She served on the bench for 21 years, during which she established the Lynchburg Court-Appointed Special Advocate program and a term as president of the Virginia Council of Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Judges.
Judge Harris retired from the bench in 2003, with the General Assembly issuing a House Joint Resolution honoring her 21 years of service, during which time she “established a sterling reputation for fairness and compassion in dealing with the notoriously difficult issues that confront juvenile and domestic relations court judges.” She served as a substitute judge for seven years following her retirement.
In 1986, Judge Harris was one of the first eight women honored for outstanding contributions to the community by the YWCA’s Academy of Women awards. She also was awarded the Alumna Award by Sweet Briar College for her 10 years of service on the college’s board and was awarded a key to the city from the city of Lynchburg following her retirement.
Judge Harris was a member of many boards and organizations during her career, including the Virginia State Bar Board of Governors and the boards of the Virginia Episcopal School and Sweet Briar College.
Outside of work, Judge Harris loved sports, playing basketball, lacrosse and field hockey while in college. Later in life, she became an avid tennis player, once competing in the city ladies doubles championship.
Judge Harris is survived by her husband of 68 years, Ted; her children, Mary, Frances, Jennifer and Timothy; her grandchildren, Christopher, Stewart, Julia, Claudia, Alexander and Carter; her sister, Fontaine; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.