I was honored to be invited by Charlene Nix to speak at the unveiling of the official portrait of her late husband, Cobb Superior Court Judge Kenneth O. Nix Sr., that will hang in the courthouse. The courtroom was packed with members of Judge Nix’s family, his former staff and friends, judges, mayors, county commissioners and Gov. Roy Barnes, among others.
The only VIPs missing were Jack and Jill, my two mule friends who were unceremoniously exiled from Cobb County several years ago and now live in Montana or Canada — I get those places mixed up. I think they would have been impressed seeing me in such august company.
I hope it didn’t show, but my pucker factor was off the chart with the quality and quantity of the crowd. The affair was under the direction of Chief Judge Adele Grubbs and I was speaking after Dr. Gil Watson, the World’s Greatest Preacher, and retired State Court Judge Kent Lawrence of Athens. If that latter name sounds familiar, Kent Lawrence was an outstanding running back at the University of Georgia in the early Vince Dooley days. His 74-yard run in the 1966 Cotton Bowl is one of the longest in the bowl’s history and still the longest rushing touchdown by a Bulldog in a bowl game.
So I am standing here with a guy that can preach a cat out of a tree and an esteemed jurist who could flat fly on the football field. I felt like a bullfrog at a beauty pageant.
The one thing that the three of us did have in common was a tremendous respect and love for Judge Ken Nix. The judge had been Dr. Gil’s Sunday school teacher in years past and a valued mentor to Judge Lawrence.
I met Judge Nix via this column, and that was the beginning of a great friendship. Although the judge went to Presbyterian College in South Carolina on an athletic scholarship and graduated from the Emory University School of Law, he was an avowed and unapologetic Georgia Tech fan. Every time I zinged Tech in a column — a not-infrequent occurrence — I would get an immediate response from him.
The judge once told me he was going to consider holding me in contempt of court if I didn’t stop. I told him I had no contempt for the court; my contempt was for Tech when they played my alma mater. We both had a good laugh. I am glad he had a sense of humor. Looking back, that was a sassy way to talk to a Superior Court judge.
He did get the last laugh, however. At the end of the program, Ms. Nix presented me with a gift the judge figured I had earned with my smart aleck remarks about his beloved Yellow Jackets — handcuffs. And without the key. The Woman Who Shares My Name immediately began negotiating with Cobb Sheriff Neal Warren and deputy Louis Taylor to put those suckers on me and she would let them know if and when to unlock them.
Luckily, I convinced her I could not eat broccoli with my hands behind my back. The truth is that I don’t plan to eat the stuff with or without handcuffs, but the Cobb law enforcement community doesn’t need to know that.
In my tribute to Judge Nix, I told those assembled what my mentor, the late Jasper Dorsey of Marietta, taught me as a young manager in the telephone business. Mr. Dorsey said the only reason for our being here was to leave the world better than we found it.
Judge Kenneth O Nix Sr. did exactly that. He had a distinguished career in the Georgia General Assembly. He served 12 years as a State Court judge and 15 years as a Superior Court judge and helped a lot of people in the process. He and his wife, Charlene, raised a wonderful family of five children and 13 grandchildren. Judge Nix enjoyed life to the fullest. His last days were difficult but he lived them to the end with courage, dignity and a strong faith.
Most of all, Ken Nix spread joy like jam on toast. I am honored to have been considered his friend and to have had the opportunity to tell those assembled last week — and you — how my life is richer for having known this good man.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb