J. William “Bill” Cole was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. He is the son of the late Judge William H. Cole and Sally Grant Cole. After graduating from high school, he attended Vanderbilt University. He graduated from Vanderbilt in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Political Science. He then attended the University of Alabama School of Law and received his law degree in 1992.
After law school, Judge Cole returned to Birmingham and began practicing law with a firm that eventually became Luker, Cole & Associates. He represented clients throughout the State of Alabama in cases including civil, criminal, domestic relations, family court and probate court. In his 13 years of practicing law, Judge Cole focused on criminal cases in state, federal, municipal, and appellate courts. His appellate practice included representing clients in the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, the Supreme Court of Alabama, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court. While a practicing attorney, Judge Cole served as a special prosecutor and a special circuit court judge. He also served as a municipal court judge in Morris, Alabama, for approximately 4 years.
In 2005, Judge Cole was appointed by Governor Bob Riley to serve as a Jefferson County Circuit Judge. He was subsequently elected twice by the citizens of Jefferson County to serve six-year terms as a judge in the Criminal Division. In this capacity as a circuit court judge, he presided over thousands of criminal cases and more than 175 felony jury trials.
Judge Cole is a member of the Birmingham Bar Association, the Alabama Bar Association, and the American Bar Association. He has served for years as a member of the Advisory Council to the Alabama Sentencing Commission and has represented the Alabama Circuit Judges Association on the Victim Notification Implementation Task Force. He is also a member of the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham and is active in many clubs and organizations.
In November 2018, Judge Cole was elected to serve a six-year term on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.
Bill Cole has been married to Kelli Clayton Cole for over 25 years. They have 4 children ages 26, 21, 18 (twins). He is active in the community and coached little league baseball and soccer for over 10 years. The Coles are members of Canterbury United Methodist Church, where Kelli and Bill served as youth Sunday school teachers for 12 years.