Opinion Columns & Blogs

WALKER: Two great Georgians, judges Culpepper and Sosebee

We lost a great Georgian last week with the passing of George B. Culpepper III. He was, and always will be, Judge Culpepper to me, as he served for many years as a Superior Court judge in the Macon Judicial Circuit which included Peach County. And a good man and good judge he was.

Judge Culpepper was of “the greatest generation.” On the day he graduated from Mercer University School of Law in 1943, he enlisted in the United States Navy as a lieutenant serving primarily in the South Pacific. He remained in the Navy Reserve following the war and later retired as a lieutenant commander.

Judge Culpepper always had a sparkle in his eyes. He had uncommon common sense and a great sense of humor, told great stories and had witty and wise sayings, all of which he often used to make needed points as he presided over hearings and trials.

Let me give one example of a funny thing that I remember vividly. It was 1967, and I think it was one of the first hearings Judge Culpepper held. It could have been his very first. I had not participated in many myself. I was one of the attorneys and was cross-examining the male in a divorce matter. Judge Culpepper had a rubber band and was stretching it back and forth as he waited for me to finish my examination (he was probably bored and perhaps even a little nervous). The rubber band flew out of Judge Culpepper’s hand, went up into the air and came down, catching on the man’s glasses. A recess was called. When we resumed the hearing, I looked at the man’s wrist and he had three rubber bands around it. We had good laughs about this throughout the many years of Judge Culpepper’s exemplary service.

Bryant Culpepper, one of Judge Culpepper’s children, and I lived together in Atlanta during the eight legislative sessions that Bryant served. I learned a lot about Judge Culpepper from Bryant, and he learned a lot about my dad, Cohen Walker. Two good men. I know Bryant will now think about his dad every day like I do mine.

I believe that one of Judge Culpepper’s longest friends, and a man with whom he ate breakfast at Carlyle Place in Macon most every morning, was Hugh Sosebee. And like Judge Culpepper, Hugh Sosebee was a Superior Court judge. He served in the Flint Circuit which included Monroe County.

Judge Sosebee was 98 years old as of October 2014. He graduated from Mercer law school in 1938. He was appointed to the bench by Gov. Carl Sanders in 1963, and he effectively served for more than 30 years in this capacity. Prior to being a Superior Court judge, Sosebee was the solicitor general, now called district attorney, in the Flint Circuit.

This is what Judge Sosebee had to say about his friend Judge Culpepper: “Judge Culpepper loved being a judge. He respected the position and realized that our decisions affected real people. I will miss him very much.”

This is what I have to say about Judge Sosebee, with whom I served on Georgia’s Code Revision Commission for several years. First, let me say that the work of the commission was time-consuming, often boring and, in fact, often mind-numbing but extremely important. Judge Sosebee, who was the most respected person on the commission, took the work very seriously. When Judge Sosebee spoke, everyone listened. He is a wise, smart and good man.

Two good men. One now gone, and one still here. Middle Georgia is a better place because of Fort Valley’s Judge George B. Culpepper III and Forsyth’s Judge Hugh Sosebee. God bless both of them and their families.

Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: lwalker@whgmlaw.com