Eric Embry

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Thomas Eric Embry (born June 14, 1921 in Pell City; died January 12, 1992 in Birmingham) was a retired criminal defense attorney and justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Embry served in the Pacific as an infantry captain during World War II. He earned his degree at the University of Alabama School of Law in 1947 and practiced with his father in Pell City before moving to Birmingham and joining Roderick Bellow's firm. Embry represented The New York Times in the libel suit brought by Montgomery City Commissioner L. B. Sullivan following a full-page advertisement that was placed in 1960 which described institutional racism in the South in an appeal for legal defense funds for Martin Luther King Jr and non-violent protesters. The initial judgment against the Times was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court as New York Times Company v. Sullivan where it was overturned, setting an important legal standard for a finding of "actual malice" as a requirement for public officials to win libel cases.

Embry was married to the former Bedford Heard Stall of Savannah, Georgia, and had two daughters, Corinne and Alden.

Embry remained with Beddow's practice, which was later known as Beddow, Embry & Beddow, for two decades. He served as president of the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association in 1969 and was elected to the Supreme Court, filling a vacancy left in 1974 by the retirement of Daniel McCall Jr. He was reelected in 1982. His decisive ruling in an insurance case was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in Aetna v. Lavoie. The court ruled unanimously that his personal interest in a similar case should have excluded him from the judgment.

Embry was widowed in 1983 and retired in September 1985 due to failing health. He died from cancer in 1992. He was survived by his daughters and five grandchildren.


  • Shipp, E. R. (January 14, 1992) "T. Eric Embry, Defense Lawyer In Historic Libel Case, Dies at 70." The New York Times