Putting the gavel down

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By Carolyn Risner

It was an evening of gold and garnet, of friends and colleagues, of memories and laughter as hundreds paid tribute to retiring Judge Joseph Smith.

Smith, who will officially leave the bench of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Dec. 31, was feted with a reception last week to mark more than 37 years of service to the people of Levy County and 16 years on the bench.

Master of Ceremonies Luther Beauchamp regaled those in attendance with humorous stories of his past with Smith, a former law partner.

Adding to the remembrances were Martha Ann Lott, chief judge; James Nilon, circuit judge and Edward Philman, Gilchrist County judge, all of whom agreed that among Smith’s greatest attributes are love, commitment and a joy for living.

“You love people and your commitment to serve is a lifelong and broad commitment,” said Lott, who presented the judge with a plaque on behalf of all the judges of the Eighth Judicial Circuit.

Nilon cited Smith’s deep faith as being a shining example that he not only puts out for public view, but one that he backs up with acts and deeds.

Called “a passionate person” who takes his responsibility to administer justice in the best job possible, Smith was paid tribute with a tongue-in-cheek poem by three of Levy County’s deputy court clerks and again with a more somber one called “The Robe and the Man” by Frank McKoy.

H.C. Henderson, a close friend of the judge’s, shared humorous anecdotes about Smith going back nearly 40 years.

In closing remarks, Smith said his tenure on the bench had been an enjoyable ride and he held deep respect for the position entrusted to him for so many years.

“I hope I haven’t tainted that in any way,” he said.

He praised the Levy County clerk of court’s office, saying it was the best in the circuit. He lauded the sheriff’s office, calling it “top notch.”

“I would not be true to myself,” the judge concluded, “if I didn’t pay homage to God. I give Him all the credit and praise for my life.”