On Dec. 31, Superior Court Judge S. Lark Ingram will step down from her bench after a 25-year tenure in the Cobb County Courthouse. Her retirement marks the end of two generations of judges in her family, who leave behind a long legacy that has shaped much of Cobb’s judicial history.
The name Ingram has been familiar around the Cobb County courthouse for decades. Her father, Conley Ingram, the former Superior Court judge and Georgia Supreme Court justice, was a beloved fixture of the Marietta legal community for decades until his death last year.
Raised in Marietta, Ingram grew up surrounded by the legal community of which her father was a significant part. She’s also first to say she was never expected to grow up and follow in her dad’s footsteps.
“He never said, 'I want you to be a judge, I want you to be a lawyer,'” Ingram told the MDJ. “He just really led by example. ... We just enjoyed the same things ... and that's what our life revolved around.”
After graduating from Marietta High School in 1971, Ingram attended Emory University and then the University of Georgia School of Law. She spent 1980 to 1991 as an assistant United States attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, an experience she describes as “just fabulous.”
“To stand up and say, I'm here on behalf of the United States of America, that was really a big thrill,” Ingram said.
In 1991, Ingram was nominated to a State Court judgeship, a post she held until 1995. Then, she was selected by Gov. Zell Miller as a Superior Court judge.
From 2007 to 2008, Ingram served as the court’s chief judge. Aside from that time, among her favorite tasks in her 25 years on the bench has been helping to bring new families together.
“The most positive thing that we do here are the adoptions,” she said. She also counted as a highlight the time she presided over the divorce of a couple, only to remarry them later.
Ingram has seen Cobb up close for quite some time, and the community where she’ll retire is magnitudes larger than the one where she began her legal career.
“When juries came in ... I used to know at least one or two jurors in the panels,” Ingram said. “This area's really grown up, you know, it's really become a big city.”
Ingram attributed the continued success and professionalism of Cobb’s courts and institutions to its extended legal family.
“I think that's what sets Cobb County apart from most other circuits. It’s that, despite the large population increase ... we still have many of those relationships.
“We've had very good Cobb Bar leadership, and that Cobb Bar leadership has passed down the teaching, or the feeling, that we all need to get along together, she said. There's a lot of camaraderie. And it's a real strong group.”
In that spirit, Ingram is confident the Superior Court will continue to be a point of pride for Cobb County, and it’s part of why she’s decided to step down from her position.
Toward the end of her interview with the MDJ, Judge Ingram reflected on her incredible journey from the sidelines of Marietta High School’s football games to the bench.
“Man, I never would have thought that ... when I was at Marietta High School as a cheerleader down there on a football field … that I would be up here as chief judge of the Superior Court,” Ingram said. “There weren't too many women doing that kind of thing.”
As far as her plans for retirement, Ingram plans to spend time as a senior Superior Court judge, helping to dig through the immense backlog of cases caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ingram also alluded to some personal projects she has in the works, but declined to reveal details.
“If my husband reads this article … I don’t want him to find out from you,” she said with a laugh.