Ruth McDowell Kinnard, University of Alabama, was born in Camden, Alabama, on April 15, 1919. In 1940, she graduated from the University of Alabama, where she was initiated as a member of Delta Mu Chapter. After graduating, Kinnard worked as a reporter for a newspaper in Montgomery, Alabama, before becoming a traveling secretary for Tri Delta.
In 1944, Kinnard replaced Mary K. Jensen as director of collegiate chapter bylaws, a position she held until 1950, when she became collegiate secretary. From 1952 to 1956, she served as Tri Delta’s president.
While living in Montgomery, McDowell married Clairborne Kinnard, an Army Air Corps pilot from Franklin, Tennessee. Following World War II, the Kinnards moved to Franklin, Tennessee, where they lived until Claiborne died of brain cancer in 1966, leaving Ruth with three children. In 1967, Kinnard enrolled at Vanderbilt Law School, one of only three women in her class. While in law school, Kinnard clerked for the United States Attorney for Middle Tennessee.
After graduating in 1970 and being admitted to the bar, Kinnard was a lawyer for Commerce Union Bank until she was appointed to serve as a Bankruptcy Referee for Middle Tennessee, making her the first woman to hold a federal judicial position in Tennessee. In 1972, the Professional Women’s Club of Davidson County named her its Woman of the Year. In 1985, the Nashville Bar Association honored her with its Pro Bono Award for representing more clients pro bono than any other member. Throughout her career, she served on many local boards and commissions in Nashville, including town alderman.
Kinnard died on May 17, 2001.