Senior Superior Court Judge Bernard J. Mulherin Sr., a jurist remembered for seriousness on the bench and community work off it, died early Monday. He was 80.
Family members and colleagues called him fair-minded with a concern for others. His son John Mulherin said his last wish was to give chocolates to the night nurse who cared for him.
“He was the role model for our family, the glue that held us together,” Mulherin said.
A native of Augusta, Bernard Mulherin served a two-year stint as an Army officer and later an FBI special agent. Before his appointment to the Family Court bench in 1980, he operated a private law practice and served seven years on the Augusta City Council.
Mediating domestic issues such as divorces and custody cases suited Mulherin because he was sensitive to the needs of people, particularly young children, said friend and colleague Pat Rice, an Augusta lawyer.
“The mark of the man was really … his desire to raise up the level of humanity,” Rice said.
Those who knew Mulherin said he understood that his judicial decisions were life-altering. He took the time to listen to all sides and study the law as it concerned the case.
“He instilled in me … to not make quick decisions, to give every case proper consideration,” said fellow Senior Judge William M. Fleming Jr.
Mulherin was not one to tarry on a decision, either. Senior Judge Albert Pickett, another longtime colleague, said one of Mulherin’s strengths was that he was prompt in making decisions. He wasn’t one to keep lawyers hanging on motions, Pickett said.
Mulherin wouldn’t budge once his mind was made up, nor would he lose sleep worrying about past decisions. Former Judge Neal Dickert said Mulherin taught him to devise a decision-making process and stick with it.
“He didn’t second-guess himself,” Dickert said. “He lived for the future, not the past … because the next case demands just as much attention.”
Others remembered Mulherin for his efforts off the bench.
In 1965, he took a station wagon full of youngsters from the Boy’s Club to a University of Georgia football game. The trip to a game became an annual tradition. It’s just one facet of the hours he spent with the club and other civic groups, including the Knights of Columbus and American Legion, friends said.
He was also known to display his patriotism by raising an American flag on a 10-foot pole outside his home on Hilton Head Island, S.C. The locals knew him as “the flag man.”
His family said the judge often acted for others.
John Mulherin said one of the earliest memories of his father was buying dozens of doughnuts on weekends and taking them to several fire stations.
“He had every opportunity to seek out the limelight and fame, but he really was so humble and refused to do so,” Mulherin said.
A funeral Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church. Burial will follow at Westover Memorial Park.