A murder trial is an odd setting to honor a cherished mentor.
Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Z. Simms noted the presence of one of his inspirations, Janice Taylor, after jury selection for a murder trial had been completed this week.
Miss Taylor was one of the hardest teachers Ive ever had in my life, Simms told the courtroom, saying shed helped give him the motivation he needed for law school after hed gotten lazy in school.
Simms later told The Telegraph that shed taken him aside during a chemistry class and pushed him to learn.
She was a great teacher and a wonderful person, but she didnt brook a lot of nonsense, Simms said. I was sort of a happy-go-lucky student, and I realized that wasnt going to work all that well. ... She told me, You can do this. Its just a matter of work.
Simms went on to get a good grade in the chemistry class, took a number of math classes with her and even joined the math team.
It motivated me to want to learn to the point that law school seemed like a realistic thing to me, he said.
Taylor retired three years ago from First Presbyterian Day School after teaching for some 40 years in a number of schools. Prospective jurors had been asked if they knew anyone in the courthouse, and Taylor told The Telegraph she was hesitant to mention the connection but didnt want to get in trouble.
I was totally not expecting anything other than a nod that he knew me from years ago. It was totally unexpected -- and very much appreciated, she said.
Simms said hes told his children, One day youre going to meet your Miss Taylor. One day youre going to meet your teacher whos going to make you want to learn.
Still, that kind of influence only goes so far. Lawyers rejected Taylor for the jury. Simms said one of his former college professors was not only picked for a jury in July, but was selected the foreman.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.