New judge is a woman of ‘high character and great integrity’

awomack@macon.comMarch 30, 2014 

Judge_Verda_Colvin

Verda Colvin is the new Superior Court judge for the Macon Judicial Circuit.

WOODY MARSHALL — wmarshall@macon.com Buy Photo

As a first-grader, Verda Colvin already knew she wanted to be a lawyer or a missionary when she grew up.

Even as a young girl, she wanted to “save the world” in some way.

Years later, as a federal prosecutor, she often felt the urge to give criminal defendants a word of encouragement -- to let them know there’s a better way to live.

Coming from humble beginnings, she believes everybody counts.

Soon, when Colvin puts on a Superior Court judge’s robe, she will have a better opportunity to make an impact people’s lives.

She was at work March 24, on a cellphone call, when she missed a call from Gov. Nathan Deal. She listened to the voice message asking that she return the governor’s call.

When she did, she said, “I think I may have said my name twice because I was just so excited and nervous.”

Deal chose Colvin from a pool of four finalists to fill the judgeship vacancy created by Chief Judge S. Phillip Brown’s retirement from the Macon Judicial Circuit last year.

“I promised him, ... governor, I won’t disappoint you. I will work hard every day,” Colvin said. “It was a very humbling experience. I felt just extremely grateful and blessed.”

News of her appointment spread quickly through the U.S. Attorney’s Office, where she’s worked since 1999.

She called her mother and her 18-year-old son, who’s at school in New York.

When she heard her mom would be a judge, Colvin’s 10-year-old daughter asked if Colvin would tell people to “shut up” like Judge Judy on TV.

“No,” Colvin replied.

“Shut up” and “hate” are among the words and phrases banned from Colvin’s home.

‘High character’

Colvin, 48, was raised in southwest Atlanta’s Greenbriar neighborhood. After graduating from D.M. Therrell High School, she sought a different environment for college.

She graduated from Sweet Briar College, an all-female liberal arts school just north of Lynchburg, Va.

Colvin was one of five black students in her graduating class.

Now set on becoming a lawyer, she came back to the Peach State to attend the University of Georgia’s law school.

After graduation, Colvin worked at a Charlotte, N.C., law firm, honing her skills in civil litigation, but also working in criminal defense.

“I think I worked just as hard on that side as I did being a prosecutor,” she said.

In order to protect the rights of the innocent, she said, a lawyer must protect the rights of the guilty.

“I feel strongly about that principle,” Colvin said.

Wanting to spend more time in trial work, she joined the Athens-Clarke County Solicitor’s Office, prosecuting misdemeanor crimes, before leaving to work at the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office.

She started work as a federal prosecutor in Macon in 1999.

Since then, she’s handled cases ranging from drugs to white collar crime.

Fellow federal prosecutor Charles Calhoun describes Colvin as a “born trial lawyer.”

Her tall height and distinctive voice make Colvin’s presence known in the courtroom, he said.

While exuding confidence, she’s very professional and focused.

“She is a person of high character and great integrity. That’s what she’s known for more than anything else,” Calhoun said.

With such high expectations, if Colvin sees witnesses or defendants not being completely truthful, she calls them out, he said.

“That really gets her going,” Calhoun said. “It’s like somebody poked a dog with a stick.”

He said he expects Colvin will carry the same high expectations of integrity and professionalism with her when she soon moves to an office a couple of blocks away at the Bibb County Courthouse.

A date for Colvin’s swearing-in ceremony hasn’t been set, but once she takes office, she will remain a judge at least until the 2016, when her post comes up for re-election.

Chief Judge Tripp Self said he and the other Superior Court judges welcome Colvin to the bench.

“Verda has long served our community as an assistant U.S. attorney and has done so in an exemplary fashion,” Self said. “Verda has a sharp wit, strong academic credentials and enjoys an outstanding reputation for legal excellence.”

‘Starting a legacy’

Raising her children as a single mother, Colvin has been active in local Boy Scout and Girls Scout troops.

She was the first mother in the Boy Scouts’ Ocmulgee District to go to Philmont, a coming-of-age Boy Scout hiking and camping trip, with her son.

She helped establish the St. Peter Claver Girl Scout troop and led it for several years.

She works on the executive board for the Boy Scouts’ Ocmulgee District and on a committee that reaches out to boys who aren’t generally exposed to Scouting.

Colvin is active in her church, First Baptist Church on New Street in downtown Macon. She is a youth leader, helps with children’s Sunday School classes and organizes activities for the church’s kids.

Giving back to the community is a part of Colvin’s make-up.

“That’s the legacy I want to leave,” she said. “It’s about the service I can give to others.”

While praying a couple years ago, she felt she was meant to serve in a greater capacity. But she was unsure of what she was supposed to do.

Then, after a few people approached her about putting her name in for the judgeship, she sent in an application.

Becoming the circuit’s first black female judge, Colvin said she believes the job carries a special responsibility.

“I do feel especially mindful that I am starting a legacy and starting something that’s new for our community,” she said. “For me, that adds enormous responsibility on my shoulders that I have to represent my community well overall, but also be a sign and a symbol that women and minorities are capable of holding office and doing a fantastic job.”

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