THOMASVILLE -- James E. "Jim" Hardy was tending to court business on the third floor of the Thomas County Courthouse when the governor called a little before noon Wednesday.
Hardy was among five people Gov. Sonny Perdue interviewed a month ago for a fifth judgeship in the Southern Judicial Circuit.
When Hardy returned to his second-floor office Wednesday morning, his staff told him the chief executive had phoned. Hardy returned the call.
Perdue offered Hardy the job. Hardy accepted.
"It wasn't an extended conversation," Hardy explained.
Currently chief assistant district attorney for the Southern circuit, Hardy, a Thomasville resident, will assume duties of the judgeship Jan. 1.
At 58, he has been as assistant district attorney since 1981. A graduate of Vanderbilt University and Cumberland School of Law, the Perry native served in the U.S. Army. He and his wife, Dayna, have four children.
Greeting well-wishers in his office, Hardy described himself as "numb" about an hour after Perdue's call. Although he has several cousins who are lawyers, Hardy is the first judge in his family.
By midafternoon, the feeling was beginning to return. Congratulations continued to pour in. Some were delivered in person, others by phone.
Hardy's plan for his judicial service is simple: He will try to be fair and do the right thing.
Thomas County Sheriff Carlton Powell and Hardy have worked together for more than two decades. The two also are friends.
Powell said his and Hardy's beliefs are not far apart. God, country, family, the flag and the law are important to them.
"He's a family man," the sheriff said. "He's the kind of man you think should be in this position."
Hardy possesses the attributes a judge should have, Powell added, describing him as methodical and practicing a common-sense approach to matters.
David Miller, Southern circuit district attorney and Hardy's boss for another month, said Hardy being named to the judgeship is wonderful recognition for 25 years of faithful service to the circuit.
"I think the governor made the right choice among several qualified nominees for the position," Miller said.
Advertising was to begin Wednesday afternoon for an assistant district attorney for the Thomasville office. Miller said he would not rush into a hiring decision.
Ray Auman and Jim Prine, assistant district attorneys in the Thomasville office, are capable of performing required tasks until a third lawyer is hired, the district attorney explained.
"I think he's faithfully served this community for over 20 years, and I think citizens of the Southern circuit will benefit with him as a jurist," Prine said about Hardy's appointment.
Miller said a new chief assistant district attorney will be named in the near future.
From a personal standpoint, the district attorney is thrilled about Hardy's appointment. Professionally, he is losing someone he described as the most experienced prosecutor, including Miller, in the circuit.
Thomasville attorney Steve Kelley has represented many defendants prosecuted by Hardy.
"You like to see perseverance rewarded," Kelly said Wednesday afternoon. "With the years he's put in, it's well-deserved."
Harry Jay Altman, a Thomasville resident and Southern circuit Superior Court judge, lauded the governor's choice. Perdue had four good candidates "and could not go wrong," Altman explained.
Altman described Hardy as conscientious, intelligent and caring.
"He'll be a a wonderful addition to the Southern Judicial Circuit," the judge said.
The district attorney said Hardy is an outstanding prosecutor. "And he will be an outstanding judge," Miller added.
Considerations of office space for Hardy began informally when his name went to the governor as a judgeship finalist, said Mike Stephenson, Thomas County manager.
"We don't have any specific plans, but we'll provide a space respectful of the office," Stephenson said.
Thomas County residents should be aware of Hardy's qualities, the sheriff said. "All Thomas countians should be glad we have a man of this caliber appointed to the bench," Powell explained.
He thinks Hardy possesses attributes Southwest Georgia citizens want in a judge.
"I think Jim Hardy has qualities all of the United States would like to have in a judge," Powell said.
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