Dorothy Spomer

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

CAIRO, Ill. -- On Saturday, April 23, 2011, our area lost a legal pioneer. Dorothy Wilbourn Spomer, 90, of Cairo passed away in Cape Girardeau.

Dorothy held the distinction of being the first woman judge in Southern Illinois, having been elected Alexander County judge in 1950 and later circuit judge.

After 27 years, she retired from the bench, only to soon be appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to become the first female to sit on the 5th District Appellate Court. She left the court in 1980 and joined the practice of law with her husband, W.C. Spomer. They practiced as Spomer and Spomer until 1992.

Spomer graduated with honors from the University of Illinois School of Law in 1943 at the age of 22, where she was a member of the Order of the Coif.

Her first case after law school was with her father, lawyer Asa Wilbourn, before the Supreme Court where she argued and won an election contest lawsuit. During her judicial career. Spomer heard cases throughout Southern Illinois and garnered the reputation as a principled, fair-minded jurist. Quiet and demur, she led by example. Always prepared and proficient in shorthand, it was not unusual for her notes to rival those of the court reporter.

In 2009, she was a recipient of Southern Illinois University's Inspiring Women of Achievement Award. She was a member of Illinois Judges Association, Illinois Bar Association, past president of Cairo BPW, former member of Cairo School Board, Altar Guild and Board of Directors of Immanuel Lutheran Church, along with long-standing membership in Egyptian Country Club.

Spomer was preceded in death by her father, Judge Asa Wilbourn; her mother, Margaret; a brother, Dr. Asa J. Wilbourn; a sister, June Smith and husband Wally.

She is survived by three children, daughter Lisa (Arthur) Krasnoff of Slidell, La., son retired USAF Maj. John (Barbara) Spomer of Omaha, Neb., and son 5th District Appellate Court Justice Stephen (Debra) Spomer of Cairo; six grandchildren, Amy, John, Adam, Rachel, Grace and Sam; and a sister, Naomi Carr of Colorado.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Barkett Funeral Home in Cairo.

The funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Cairo with Albert Nyland and the Rev. Larry Potts officiating. Burial will be in National Cemetery in Mound City, Ill.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Immanuel Lutheran Church, Magnolia Manor or National Cemetery Preservation Committee at Mound City.