Judge John Godbold
The country lost one of its great leaders on December 22 when Judge John Godbold passed away at the age of 89. He had a remarkable legal career which included time as an outstanding trial lawyer and over forty years of service as a United States Court of Appeals Judge. He is the only person to have ever served as Chief Judge of two federal circuits, the 5th and the 11th. He was also the Director of the Federal Judicial Center.
In 1990, Judge Godbold was named the Leslie S. Wright Distinguished Professor of Law here at the law school where he taught appellate advocacy. Last night I met with the Godbold family at the visitation at their home. Betty, his wife of 67 years, John his son and Susan his daughter all told me how much he enjoyed teaching at the law school. It really was the thing that he most enjoyed.
Judge Godbold was a great lawyer and a judge but more importantly a great human being. He treated everyone with respect and kindness. His constant message to all who knew him was civility. When I was a young lawyer, I had signed on to a brief which unnecessarily attacked the position taken by the other side in the case. It was far more personally argumentative than it needed to be. Not long after the brief was filed, I heard from Judge Godbold. He told me in no uncertain terms that the brief I had filed was inappropriate. He taught me the valuable lesson that you can be a successful advocate and still be a gentleman.
Judge Delores Boyd and Chief Judge Joel Dubina both spoke eloquently about Judge Godbold's competence, his character and his humanity at the funeral today. Judge Dubian reminded us that Judge Godbold's constant message was that who are you matters far more than what you are. He was a wonderful role model to all of us who knew him and we will miss him deeply.