Odds are a funny thing until they’re stacked against us. Nature is a good school of learning, as all around us are examples of small things becoming more. The acorn, a tiny sprout in a miniscule crack in asphalt, the single trickle of water over waves of time. These things, through perseverance and diligence, become something else. The acorn grows to become a mighty oak, the tiny sprout in asphalt becomes a riotous vale of forsythia, and the trickle of water becomes a raging river, shaping earth and stone. Each one of us hold within ourselves the same potential when we arrive on this planet. Some of us land where we flourish with hardly an effort at all, and some of us land where we must fight to thrive.
Growing up in a two-bedroom mobile home in Paint Rock Valley, the only surviving child out of four to impoverished parents, Deborah Dunsmore certainly faced substantial odds. One of her siblings was lost to SIDS, another to a drunk driver, and another to domestic violence. These experiences began shaping Dunsmore from an early age.
From the beginning, Dunsmore excelled academically, and her educators took notice and began guiding her down the long, rewarding road to a higher education. While her parents loved her immensely, they could not help her with her studies, and it is because of mentors and educators that she made it through.
“My father was illiterate, and my mother never graduated high school,” Dunsmore stated. “They wanted to help me, but they couldn’t. It was unknown territory for me and for them, and I wouldn’t have made it without my educators stepping in and helping me. It took a lot of help from a lot of people.”
Upon graduation, Dunsmore attended Northeast Alabama Community College on a scholarship and later Montevallo, hoping to become a basketball coach and English teacher one day, but fate had other plans. It was during a work study that Dunsmore first began working with families in need and in the legal system. This sparked a passion within her that stayed for years, just off in the wings of thought when she deliberated over her future.
Eventually, these deliberations led Dunsmore back to school to earn a degree in Human Relations, and that later evolved into the pursuit of a law degree. As CommScope was set to close its doors, Dunsmore, who was head of HR there, was taking the bar exam while tying off all the loose ends at her place of employment.
“Judge Graham, who was practicing at that time, wrote my recommendation to law school, and he mentored me. He later became a mentor from the bench. He, and my other educators and mentors, helped me rise above my circumstances.”
Dunsmore put herself through law school at night in Birmingham while working full-time in Scottsboro, commuting the long drive each way. She has been practicing law since 2006 in the county of her birth, where she has also resided her entire life.
To date, her practice mainly focuses on family law, and in 2019, Dunsmore was sworn in as Deputy Attorney General for the Department of Human Relations.
“DHR is my true love. That’s where my heart is. That and family law,” Dunsmore stated. “I love working with people and getting them where they need to be. Getting families where they need to be. There is nothing more rewarding than that.”
On Monday, September 26, 2022, the Scottsboro City Council appointed Dunsmore to Municipal Judge for the city of Scottsboro. On Tuesday, September 27, 2022, Deborah Dunsmore was sworn in as Scottsboro’s first ever female municipal judge. And who swore her in? None other than Judge John H. Graham himself.
“I’m honored to be the first female municipal judge for the city of Scottsboro,” Dunsmore stated. “Mayor Jim McCamy has been progressive in his vision for the city, and the council has been instrumental in moving it forward. I’ve had the pleasure of prosecuting for the city for the last five years. We have the best municipal court in Alabama, and I’m excited to work with them in this new role. A judge has the responsibility to balance protecting the public with the due process of the law. Serving our city in this new capacity will afford me the opportunity to do that.”
Dunsmore’s Certified Paralegal and Office Manager Misty Godfrey stated, “Her [Dunsmore’s] life experiences and her professional experience will serve her well in her position as Municipal Judge. She’s worked both sides of the law as a defense attorney and as a prosecutor. She also has experience in the human relations department and is effective with personnel management.”
Dunsmore resides in Scottsboro with her husband, Paul Stoneking. She is the mother of three daughters, (one of whom is pictured on page 1), and according to Dunsmore, they know they can do anything if they set their minds to it.
“I want whoever is reading this to know that it doesn’t matter where you come from or how educated your parents or your upbringing was. You can still do all the hard things. You can still make it to where you want to be.”
Dunsmore began her first day on the bench on Monday, October 3, 2022. At the time of this publication, she and her appointed municipal prosecutors, Patricia Cobb Stewart and John Merritt Jenkins, III, (pictured on page 1) will be meeting 254 names on the docket.
Congratulations, Judge Dunsmore, on a seat well-earned. We know you will serve the city well.
by Martha Smith