Shelby County Public Defenders Honor Two Who Worked for Justice


When Ralph Nally joined the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office in 1979, the price of gasoline was less than a dollar a gallon. He was among the first to move into the new Criminal Justice Center when it opened in 1981 — a structure deemed so modern and high tech, that it was nicknamed the “Glamour Slammer.”

Much has changed in Nally’s 33 years as an investigator with the public defender’s office.  As an investigator, Nally interviews witnesses, photographs crime scenes, gathers physical evidence and documents, and generates social histories of clients.

“Every day is different.  No matter what.  There are people here I’ve made friends and associations with, like family.  I’ll miss the challenges that go along with the job. I can’t imagine, in my heart, having worked anywhere else.”

Mischelle Alexander-Best first became a Shelby County Public Defender in 1993. She was elected a  General Sessions Criminal Court judge in 1998.  Alexander-Best was unseated in 2006 and returned to the public defender’s office.

“Coming back to be a public defender, after being a judge would be very difficult,” said Nelle Pallme, Supervising Attorney with the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office.  “But Mischelle did so with dignity. She is a team player and did anything that needed to be done. She was very caring of her clients, worked hard, and showed so much initiative. She cares about this community. We know there’ll be great things ahead.  She just loves to help people.”

Nally and Alexander-Best retire this month with more than 55 years collective service to Shelby County Government.  They are being honored at a dinner with their colleagues from the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office.

Ralph Nally and Mischelle Alexander-Best made Memphis a more just city!