Roper tries on robe

J. David Roper, 60, took the oath of office Tuesday to become the newest Superior Court judge in the Augusta Judicial Circuit.


In a concise ceremony punctuated with the formality of more than a dozen robed judges filing into the courtroom, many thank-yous and the manifestation of gentle humor, Judge Roper slipped into a black robe and accepted a new Bible and gavel.

"It fits," Judge Roper said of the robe.

His former law partners, Wilson Haynes Jr. and Mark Wilhelmi, who assisted with the robe, told the crowded courtroom that Judge Roper told them they were only allowed a few words. They chose kind, compassionate, a true gentleman and an attorney with the "rare mix of intelligence and common sense" to describe Judge Roper.

He asked Richmond County State Court Judge David D. Watkins to administer Tuesday's oath.

Judge Watkins noted that it was a joyous day for some, a happy one for others, and "an occasion of relief for some."

Judge Roper won his position after months of campaigning first in the general election in November and in a runoff election in December. Although he will be the most junior judge on the Superior Court bench, he replaces the former chief judge, who wielded a gavel for 38 years, Judge William M. Fleming Jr.

Judge Sheryl Jolly welcomed Judge Roper on Tuesday.

"I'm no longer the rookie judge," said Judge Jolly, who had had the least seniority, with one year on the bench. "He's got some long duty hours he doesn't know about yet."

Judge Roper thanked his supporters who crowded into the courtroom Tuesday. He will pray for wisdom, he told them.

Although the Superior Court judges may alter how cases are distributed, at least in the beginning Judge Roper will be one of three judges who preside exclusively over domestic cases involving divorce and child-custody issues.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or