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Friday afternoon, attorney Matt Hennesy, representing the Douglas Bar Association, presented retired State Court Judge Bob Preston with the Liberty Bell Award.
The local bar association presents the Liberty Bell Award to an individual in the Coffee County community who exhibits outstanding community service. The award often goes to someone who has promoted better understanding of the rule of law, encouraged greater respect for law and the courts, stimulated a sense of civic responsibility, or contributed to good government in the community. It is often, but not always, presented to an individual lawyer or judge or to an entire community organization.
Judge Preston was elected to the State Court bench in 2004. He has served in that capacity since then. In December, Judge Preston announced his retirement, which was effective Friday, December 23, 2022.
Friday, friends, family, and co-workers gathered in the courthouse’s jury assembly room for the award presentation and a retirement reception.
“Honestly, I cannot thank each and every one of you enough for what you have meant to me and my family all these many years,” said Judge Preston. Then, turning to Superior Court Dwayne Gillis, he stated, “Dwayne became Superior Court judge about four years before I was elected. You have said some mighty fine things about me recently and I do appreciate it. And I want you to know that I feel the same way about you that you have expressed about me. And it’s just been a wonderful association and I thank you for what you’ve meant to Douglas Bar Association, the judiciary, and all of Coffee County. Thank you.”
Several of those in attendance also made remarks to Judge Preston during the reception. “It’s been an honor knowing you over the years. It’s been a pleasure working with you and being with you as solicitor and then moving on to the bench. Your name has always been synonymous with professionalism and you’ve been a cornerstone of this community. This is an honor for you and I’m proud of you in your retirement. I wish you the best of luck from our family and I always thank you for what you and your family have meant to us,” said Superior Court Judge Jeff Kight.
“Judge Preston, I want to tell you thank you for all the years that you’ve been on the bench and dedicated to this community. I’ve been working with you since I started at the sheriff’s office 30 years ago and it’s been a pleasure. I appreciate the way you treat people and get things done when they need to get done. We’re sure going to miss you. Enjoy your retirement,” said Chief Magistrate Julie Phillips.
“If I had to describe Judge Preston with one word, it would be a man of integrity. Fifty years ago, he became an acquaintance of mine when he closed the first house I bought. Through the years we have become friends and I can’t tell you how much, from the county commission’s standpoint, we appreciate you. We take for granted the times when things are going smooth. But in previous times we’ve had turbulence. But it’s so we good when there’s a man of integrity in place and things settle down. We thank you for that. And for the citizens of Coffee County, we thank you for your service,” said county commissioner Johnny Wayne Jowers.
Other officials who spoke at the ceremony include Superior Court Judges Dwayne Gillis, Kelly Brooks and Andy Spivey, attorneys Bob Porter and Chad White, Probate Judge Beverly Johns, Solicitor Katy Paulk, county commissioner Jimmy Kitchens, and lifelong friends Francis Lott and Lynda Bagwell.
Past recipients of the local Liberty Bell Award include Tub Merritt, Elizabeth Lott, Mayor Jackie Wilson, and Joe Farris.
Judge Preston’s term still has two years remaining. Gov. Brian Kemp will appoint a successor to serve the remainder of his term.