Rankin County authorities recently honored the legacy of the late Youth Court Judge Thomas H. Broome, announcing that the building where he worked to protect the lives and well-being of children now bears his name.
The Rankin County Board of Supervisors on July 14 adopted a resolution changing the name of the Rankin County Juvenile Justice Center in Pelahatchie to the Thomas H. Broome Juvenile Justice Center. On July 28, the Board, Judge Broome’s family, judges, court staff, law enforcement and friends packed the courtroom to honor the life and service of Judge Broome. Paula Broome, Judge Broome’s wife, unveiled a portrait in the courtroom.
Judge Broome died on May 21. He was 57.
The programs which Judge Broom developed and the resources which he made available to Rankin County children during his 20 years as Youth Court judge are a model unmatched in the state, said Rankin County Court Judge David Morrow and retired County Court Judge Kent McDaniel. Judge Broome was an innovator who constantly looked for ways to better serve the children who came under his care.
“They are available to you and your children and your grandchildren because of what Tom Broome has done,” Judge Morrow told those attending the ceremony.
The Rankin County Board of Supervisors in its resolution honoring the life and service of Judge Broome said his “incredibly profound legacy will be felt for generations.” The Board said, “Judge Broome was a genuinely kind man who loved people and sought their greater good. Tom loved his fellow public servants, the youth court staff, and Tom loved his role as a steadfast protector of the disadvantaged and troubled youth of Rankin County. Tom was full of compassion for the less fortunate and he made time, day or night, for anyone who required his help. Tom’s larger than life presence, personality, leadership ability, legal acumen and love for people will be greatly missed.”
Board Attorney Craig Slay, who read the resolution at the ceremony, noted that Judge Broome also had a talent for finding federal funds and grants to help pay for some of the innovative programs that benefitted Rankin County children and families. That was music to the ears of the Board of Supervisors.
Judge Broome founded the Rankin County Juvenile Drug Court in 2006, and he started one of the state’s two earliest family drug court programs in 2010. He established a Safe Babies Court Team for Rankin County in July 2015 – the second in the state. He implemented the state’s second Zero to Three program, giving intensive services to children from birth to age three. He helped lead a movement to provide legal representation to parents in youth court. When the program started in 2012, one county in the state paid for lawyers to represent indigent parents in Youth Court; today about 40 percent of the counties provide some level of representation. A dog stood in the courtroom before the ceremony began. Judge Broome introduced therapy dogs to comfort the children.
Judge Broome was instrumental in building the facility that now bears his name. The court moved into the facility in 2011.
Judge Morrow said, “Tom Broome breathed life into this building, every fiber of this building.” Gesturing to the Youth Court staff standing facing the audience, he said, “His heart still beats today through the staff….This is the heartbeat of the Rankin County Youth Court, and it all comes from Tom Broome.”
Youth Court Administrator Julie Thompson said, “We had some hard days out here without him. He was our family and we love him. He’s still here. He has taught his staff well. We will continue to work every day making sure the children of Rankin County are OK.”
Resident Jurist John Hudson of Natchez said Judge Broome “loved the families and children that he served and always sought to do right by them.” He worked to deliver justice for all who came before him. He was the embodiment of Micah 6:8: “and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
He also worked to bring about improvements for the juvenile justice system across the state and at the national level, Judge Hudson said. For instance, he helped develop a risk assessment instrument to help those in charge of juvenile detention to determine who had to be detained, and who should not be.
Throughout his career, he was a regular visitor to the Legislature, pushing for changes that would benefit children. “So much of the progress that has been made has been because of his hard work,” Judge Hudson said.
Judge Broome served as a board member and later as secretary to the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. He was fondly remembered at a recent national meeting, where the incoming Council president spoke of Judge Broome’s helpful mentoring, Judge Hudson said.
“Tom was my best friend and when I think of him now, joy comes to me always,” Judge Hudson said. “He would always lift my spirits.”
Judge Broome’s self-deprecating humor lightened a room or broke tension. He once quipped about his power as a judge, saying “Everyone knows that I carry more weight than any other judge in Mississippi.” For those who never met him, Judge Broome was a big man.
Working together for many years, Judges Broome and Hudson always bantered over the Mississippi State-Ole Miss rivalry. Judge Broome graduated with highest honors from Mississippi State University with a degree in mechanical engineering before earning a law degree from Mississippi College School of Law. Judge Hudson, a University of Mississippi Law graduate, made an extreme concession at the ceremony, hoisting and clanging a cowbell. Then he put it down with a gesture like he had touched something unpleasant.
All who spoke at the ceremony agreed that renaming the building was the best possible way to honor Judge Broome – and that he would have disapproved. He did not seek accolades or honors. But he would have loved the fellowship of the gathering and a shared meal. The Rankin County Bar Association spread a barbecue lunch afterwards.