Some people remember Judge C. Cloud Morgan as being tough and stern in the courtroom. A good many refer to him as an “old-fashioned Southern gentleman.”
For several lawyers, they referred to him as “The Judge” who presided over Bibb County Superior Court hearings and trials for 23 years.
About 250 people gathered Wednesday at Hart’s at the Cupola to celebrate Morgan’s life. He died Sunday after a prolonged illness.
Born in Kentucky in 1917, Morgan moved to Macon to attend Mercer University to become a preacher, said Robert Setzer, pastor at Macon’s First Baptist Church of Christ.
He changed his mind fairly quickly and entered law school, Setzer said.
Morgan worked as an announcer on Mercer’s radio extension program on WMAZ to help defray tuition costs.
When it came time for Morgan to run for election to the bench in 1966, Setzer said local residents recognized him.
“They remembered his voice from the radio,” he said.
Graham Thorpe, an assistant U.S. Attorney who worked in the Bibb County district attorney’s office for three decades, said he remembers first appearing in court before Morgan as a law student. Back then, he was a clerk in the district attorney’s office who handled pleas on occasion.
“A lot of people, including me were scared to death of him,” Thorpe said Wednesday morning. “He was very demanding, but he demanded no less than what he himself was willing to give.”
Thorpe said Morgan made him a better lawyer and a better prosecutor as he came to understand the judge’s strong value system and emulate it himself.
“I learned an awful lot from him,” he said. “He was always a gentleman and someone who believed in the old-fashioned concept of honor.”
One of the lessons Thorpe learned was not to be late for court. On one occasion, Thorpe was in a hearing with another judge and was tardy for a hearing in Morgan’s courtroom. The judge responded by fining him $25.
Two weeks later, Thorpe received an envelope from the judge’s chambers.
“There was my $25 check that had been torn to pieces,” he said.
Chief Macon Municipal Court Judge Bobby Faulkner said Morgan once fined himself for being late.
Retired Superior Court Judge Bryant Culpepper said Morgan had a strong dedication to his work and the justice system.
On some occasions, he held court on the weekends.
Culpepper recalled a time when a jury deliberating a Fort Valley murder case failed to reach a verdict on a Saturday and Morgan held court on Sunday so the jury could resume their deliberations.
“He told the bailiff he’d be on the back row at the Baptist church (and the bailiff was to come and get him if the jury returned a verdict),” Culpepper said Wednesday after the funeral.
Culpepper said Morgan had a notebook in which he recorded every sentence he handed down during his career on the bench.
Retired Superior Court Judge Tommy Day Wilcox said Morgan reviewed the book of sentences regularly to ensure fairness.
“Consistency was important to him. Fairness was important to him, no matter who you were,” he said.
Wilcox said Morgan served as his mentor when he became a judge in 1981.
“He was what I thought a judge should be,” he said.
When Morgan retired from the bench in 1990, it was to allow Wilcox to run for his vacated seat after the U.S. Justice Department ruled that a number of Georgia judgeships were illegal.
In the funeral eulogy, Judge Faulkner spoke of Morgan’s laughter and his sense of humor.
On one occasion, a man accused of burglary for the third time appeared before Morgan, Faulkner said.
“He said, ‘Son I think you might need to find another line of work. I don’t think you’re cut out to be a burglar,’ ” Faulkner recalled.
Although Morgan retired in 1990, he still went to the courthouse nearly every day. Faulkner said he remembers seeing the judge walking down the hall wearing a Stetson hat and a bolo tie. Nearly every day he went to Jeneane’s where the two men often talked about the law, Morgan’s experiences on the bench and politics.
Faulkner said he remembers one of the last mornings when he shared breakfast with the judge and how Morgan remarked about how he had been friends with three generations of Faulkner’s family — Faulkner, his father and his grandfather.
“I kinda choked up when he said that because The Judge called me his friend,” he said. “I still get a lump in my throat when I think about it.”
Former Bibb County District Attorney Charles Weston said Morgan had many other interests outside the courtroom.
“He was an avid gardener who loved his roses,” Weston said.
He said Morgan had an intense interest in history and it was very common to see him reading a novel.
Morgan will be buried in a private ceremony at Rose Hill Cemetery.
Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.