FORT PAYNE, AL (WAFF) - The state’s longest serving circuit court judge said his goodbye’s on Tuesday in DeKalb County.
Judge Randall Cole is retiring from the bench after 44 years.
“I would say thank you for allowing me to serve the number of years that I’ve been permitted to serve,” said Cole.
After 44 years on the bench, Cole passed the torch by swearing in Andrew Hairston to take his place. It’s an honor Hairston has known dating back to his days of practicing law in Birmingham.
“They wanted to know two things. Did I know Randy Owen and did I know Judge Cole? And I think that goes to show the respect that Judge Cole has across our state,” said Cole.
Cole was elected judge back in 1974 at a time when the judge's roles were not as they are today.
“When I started, the juries set the sentence. When they convicted somebody, they set the sentence,” said Cole.
Cole says it was lock them up and throw away the key when he began but now sentencing guidelines put many non-violent offenders on the streets.
His biggest case was probably that of Judith Ann Neelley, a now convicted child killer.
“Was tried back in the early 80′s and yet it seems to reappear in the news from time to time even today,” said Cole.
But Cole is quick to point out his work as a judge impacted lives of residents everyday that never make the news.
As Judge Hairston begins his career as a judge, Judge Cole says he's always tried to follow two guiding principles.
“Exercise patience and to show respect to people who come to court. It’s important that people leave the courtroom feeling they have been treated fairly,” said Cole.
Cole will take on a new role in the next few months which will be far different than his work on the bench.
In three months, At the age of 76, he’s going to become a granddad.