Bradley Smith becomes first woman to serve in position
MUSKOGEE, Oklahoma — Muscogee (Creek) citizen Toni Bradley Smith was sworn in as lead municipal judge for the city of Muskogee in January, becoming the first woman to ever hold the position.
Bradley Smith had served as the first alternate for the city’s municipal court primarily presiding over the juvenile court for the past year.
She was nominated for lead judge when the previous head municipal judge was elected to the District Court of Muskogee County.
“It’s been wonderful, I love it,” Bradley Smith said. “I love the people that I work with here. I love working with the defendants as well.”
Her philosophy as a judge is one of respect and compassion with a goal towards eliminating as much negativity as possible associated with having to appear in court.
“How I look at it you’re seeing a person at their lowest point, if not their lowest point in their life when they’re in here,” Bradley Smith said.
Bradley Smith’s journey to justice started after she graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law and returned to her hometown with an objective to help improve the city.
“I definitely wanted to come back, help contribute to Muskogee and make sure that it continues to grow and be successful,” she said.
She found her passion in a specialty of law at her first job out of law school.
“I worked for a man in his law firm, he represented lots of banks and I really got into it,” Bradley Smith said.
When she decided to branch out on her own, her prior work with banking clients stood out and a new opportunity was created with Armstrong Bank in Muskogee.
Bradley Smith said Armstrong Bank took a chance on her abilities, hiring her as their first general counsel. She has served as general counsel for 15 years and is the vice president of the financial institution.
She said it can be easy to become overwhelmed with such a historically significant position, but sees it as an honor and an advantage to show other people the benefits of striving to obtain their goals.
“You can make your own path,” she said.
Bradley Smith was not predisposed to become a lawyer.
“My parents aren’t attorneys, I wasn’t born into any kind of lineage,” she said. “They worked hard, they taught me to work hard and so now here I am.”
She graduated from Muskogee High School and attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas before being accepted into OU law school. She never saw public school education as a disadvantage from her classmates who attended private schools.
“I never felt like I had a lesser education, that I wasn’t prepared just as well as they were,” she said.
“You can do anything, there’s no reason you can’t do something. There’s no reason you can’t get an education.”