A Youth Court Judge known to be caring, tough, and brilliant died over the weekend, bringing a social media and real-life outpouring of sorrow from people of all walks of life.
Rankin County Youth Court’s Honorable Judge Thomas H. Broome, 57, a 20-year veteran of the bench, died peacefully Sunday morning surrounded by his beloved family after battling an illness for several weeks.
He changed lives. He helped set people on the right path. He was a visionary leader among youth court judges, a trailblazer in developing programs and initiatives to improve the lives of children and families, and a steadfast guardian of the well-being of children in his care, according to his contemporaries.
Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam served as a co-chair of the Commission on Children’s Justice with Judge Broome.
“Judge Broome was a true public servant, leaving his mark on the lives of children, youth and their families who appeared before him, but also leading numerous initiatives to reform our youth court system,” she said. “He has led in bringing national solutions to Mississippi, such as trauma-informed care and training to educate judges and the child welfare communities on alternatives to removing children from their homes. He was at the forefront of juvenile justice reform, leading his own county to develop a premier detention facility while always working a phone call away to advise other youth court judges of options to help troubled youth.”
Judge Broome had served as County Court and Rankin County Youth Court judge since 2003. During that time, he was a champion for reforming troubled youth and broken families. His dedication and passion towards juvenile justice fostered the mending of many broken homes and helped reverse the downward spiral that many troubled youth and their families were caught up in. His work will never be forgotten, his contemporaries said.
Judge Carlyn Hicks worked with Judge Broome on numerous initiatives, and represented indigent parents by court appointment before the Rankin County Youth Court. The Rankin County Youth Court was one of the pilot programs which began offering court-appointed attorney representation to indigent parents in 2012, and Judge Broome served as chair of the Parent Representation Committee.
“As a pioneer of the parent representation movement in Mississippi, Judge Broome championed efforts to improve and enhance our legal system for the benefit of vulnerable families across the state. The children of Mississippi are better today because of his decades of dedicated advocacy and leadership on their behalf through innovation and steadfast judicial service,” Judge Hicks said. “Judge Broome was a brilliant legal mind, systems change agent and incomparable jurist whose impact has been felt in jurisdictions across this nation.”
Much like his work with youth over the years, Judge Broome was a mentor to many whose lives he touched in his personal and professional life. He was an inspiration to many who would follow a calling into a professional career in juvenile justice.
“No words can adequately express our sadness at Judge Broome’s death or our gratitude for the opportunity to work alongside him,” said the RCYC post. “The Rankin County Youth Court and staff will honor his memory and legacy by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much.”
Judge John Hudson of Natchez, Resident Jurist and former Youth Court judge, said, “I had the privilege and joy to work closely with Tom from the day he first took the Youth Court bench in Rankin County. He was a warrior for right causes. When I think of Tom, I think of the person Jesus described as a lamb in Matthew 25. He cared passionately about the ‘least of these.’ For him, those were the children and families whose circumstances had placed them in his court for support and accountability. He answered the call every time.”
“Other counties modeled their youth detention center after his. The Center was committed to meaningful habilitation. He picked up every good idea from his colleagues and instituted them in Rankin County. He approached each day with the commitment to show the way to vibrant hope for all who came his way,” Judge Hudson said. “And you can’t describe Tom without talking about his levity. Every phone call, every meeting, every encounter was populated with some of his well-renowned humor. I am certain that Heaven is an even happier place because he is there.”
But it isn’t only members of the legal community who mourn him today.
News of his illness started to spread on social media in April, bringing an outpouring of prayers and praise for the beloved judge. People spoke of his caring and compassionate work with children and families. Among the hundreds of hopes and prayers for healing and recovery were messages from people who had come under the jurisdiction of his court.
One writer said, “Praying so hard right now for him. he saved my life he never gave up on me I’m alive today because of him and thank God will be celebrating 6 years clean 6/15.” Another wrote, “This breaks my heart! He is definitely in my prayers! I love him and he has made such an impact on my life with my kids! Lord., please be with him and heal him in Jesus name.” Another said, “Praying for judge Broome he has helped me for over 13 years with my grandbabies please give him the strength to beat this there’s too many babies that needs his help.”
Judge Broome held national as well as statewide offices related to the welfare of children. He served on the board and later as secretary of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ). He was on the Family Violence and Domestic Relations Department Advisory Committee, the Alcohol and Other Drugs Committee, the Membership Committee and the Diversity Committee of NCJFCJ.
Judge Broome previously served as a member of the Mississippi State Intervention Courts Advisory Committee, a member of the Mississippi Uniform Youth Court Rules Commission, co-chair of the Legislation Committee on the State Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice, vice-chair of the Mississippi Children’s Justice Act Task Force, and vice-chair of the Statewide Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Task Force.
He was appointed by former Gov. Phil Bryant to serve as the Legal Committee Chair on the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teen Pregnancy and Health Issues. Former Gov. Haley Barbour appointed him to the Mississippi Statewide Advisory Group for Juvenile Justice. He also was appointed to participate in development of the Statewide Dropout Prevention Plan.
Judge Broome received numerous awards and commendations for his advocacy on behalf of children and families. He received the 2015 Chief Justice Award, the Judicial Innovation Award from the Capital Area Bar Association and the Jackson Young Lawyers Association, the Lookin’ to the Future Award presented by Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth, and the Dr. Larry Leflore Juvenile Justice Advocacy Award. He was honored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Mississippi Chapter.
Judge Broome was a lifelong native of Rankin County. He was married to his former law school classmate, Paula Henderson Broome, who has been a powerful friend to victims of domestic violence and children’s advocacy throughout the state as well.
Judge Broome was a member of the Pelahatchie Masonic Lodge #276.
Before his election to the bench, Judge Broome served as the elected County Prosecutor and Youth Court Prosecutor for Rankin County, and as the Assistant Municipal Prosecutor for Florence, Mississippi, while maintaining an active general private practice.
He graduated with distinction in 1996 from the Mississippi College School of Law, where he served on the Law Review, Moot Court Board, and as two term President of the Law School Student Bar Association. He later served as an adjunct professor there.
He graduated with highest honors from Mississippi State University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1988 and worked as a co-op student for Eastman Kodak. At MSU, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame and Who’s Who and was recognized as the Most Outstanding Engineering Graduate. After college he was a manager in the Government Practice Division of Andersen Consulting.
Arrangements have not yet been announced.