Page 22

Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin | Spring 2015

Special Interest Ivy Grimes, Farris, Riley & Pitt LLP On Retiring Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tom King, Jr. When I met with Judge Tom King, Jr., I felt an immediate rapport because of his authenticity and openness. He asked me about my work, and when I said I had only been practicing about two years, he encouraged me – “Don’t say it like that!” he said. Then he began one of Neil Diamond’s songs called “Hell Yeah,” which recounts the story of a man who, near the end of his journey, reflects upon life’s many challenges, and realizes his happiness with the person he became. Judge King struck me as one who has achieved so much in his career, and spent so much time with others who have achieved similar heights, that he realizes the relative unimportance of the struggle for power and prestige compared to the priority of service. He is proud of his family history and future legacy not because of the titles that have accumulated, but simply because they are family, and they have done their best to serve other people. I met Judge King on his last day in office, on the morning of his retirement ceremony, and he walked me through those life experiences that inspired him to be a judge, and more important to him, a compassionate person. On War and Compassion: As a young man, Judge King entered the Alabama National Guard, and served in Vietnam before ultimately retiring as a General. “Since I came back from Vietnam,” he said, “I’ve been grateful for every day.” He went on to explain how the suffering he witnessed overseas taught him to have compassion for all people. This lesson became important to him when he became a judge, because, as he said, “everyone who entered my courtroom was engaged in a struggle, dealing with their own kind of pain.” On The Kings in Alabama History: Judge King is proud of his family’s legacy in the civil rights movement in Alabama. He pointed me to a series of articles called No More Bull! in the Birmingham magazine Weld that chronicle the history of the Civil Rights Movement and discuss his family’s contribution. (A link to these articles is at the end of this article.) His grandfather, Judge Alta King, was a circuit judge for Jefferson County, and his father, Senator Tom King, Sr., ran for mayor in Birmingham as a progressive in the 1960s. His father lost the race, but he did so fighting for principles that were important to him, and the King family went on to practice law together for years before Tom and his brother Alan became judges. On Difficult Cases: Throughout his career, Judge King has presided over difficult and tragic cases – including, most recently, the case involving the young boy who died when a sign fell on him at the airport, and the case involving a teenage prodigy who went to UAB in 2000, was housed with student athletes, and sexually abused by football players in the dorm. The responsibility of overseeing these cases was weighty, and the facts often painful – yet Judge King said he recognized that all cases that came through his courtroom involved matters of great importance to those involved. On Elvis, Theodore Roosevelt, and Living in a Bowl: One line in the Neil Diamond song “Hell Yeah” talks about “living in a bowl,” with people judging while you’re trying to do your best. He mentioned how the spotlight falls on judges when they have to make critical decisions, just as he saw the spotlight on his father throughout his career in politics. He gave me a Theodore Roosevelt quote that is helpful when facing criticism – the quote beginning with, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…” 22 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin | Spring 2015
To see the actual publication please follow the link above