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UPDATE: Well-known Judge Duross Fitzpatrick dies | Guestbook

The American flag is flying at half-staff today in mourning for U.S. District Court Judge Duross Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick, 73, died Sunday night at his home in Tarversville in Twiggs County after suffering from progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare neurological disease that causes complete disability by progressively impairing movement, balance, vision, speech and swallowing, said Greg Leonard, U.S. District Court Chief Clerk.

"His illness was so debilitating and progressive," Leonard said. "He was very stubborn in fighting the disease.

"There's no cure for it."

Fitzpatrick, then a Cochran lawyer, was appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan on Dec. 31, 1985. He became chief judge in 1995 and remained in that position until taking senior status in February 2001, Leonard said.

Fellow U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Lawson said Fitzpatrick tried cases up until fall 2006 and continued to perform administrative tasks and take guilty pleas from defendants until he wasn't physically able.

"He fought (the disease) like a tiger until the end and never gave up," Lawson said. "He wanted to come to work. He didn't want to give up his social contact and he didn't want to give up on his church work.

"As long as he was physically able to drag himself to those places he did."

Over the course of his time on the bench, Fitzpatrick left his mark on Middle Georgia.

He brought citizenship ceremonies back to Macon after several years of absence.

In 1989 Fitzpatrick capped the Bibb County jail population until renovations were completed to provide space for more inmates.

Fitzpatrick sentenced Macon rapper and performer James E. Maxwell aka "Sonny Spoon" to serve 13 years in prison on drug and firearm charges in 2004.

In 2006 he approved the final portion of a promotions system for Macon's police and fire departments, ending a six-year promotions freeze initiated by federal discrimination lawsuits.

Longtime friend Macon lawyer Carr Dodson said Fitzpatrick was one of the fairest and most courteous judges he's ever encountered in court.

"He had compassion for the individual, but also saw that society needed order to it," Dodson said. "And he blended those two in fairness."

Fitzpatrick is survived by his wife, Beverly, two children and two grandchildren.

The funeral will be held at Fitzpatrick's church, Christ Church on Walnut Street in Macon at 1 p.m. Wednesday with the Rev. Wesley Smith officiating. Visitation will follow the service.

Burial will be held in Jeffersonville City Cemetery.

Telegraph archives were included in this report. For more on this story, come back to macon.com or read Tuesday's Telegraph.

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