Swearing in of new Columbia County judge draws crowd

Published: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 12:02 a.m.
LAKE CITY - The man who once turned down an appointment to West Point lifted his right hand Thursday afternoon and took the oath of office, making him the new Columbia County judge.
Tom Coleman, 50, was both teased and lauded during a investiture ceremony that packed the two largest courtrooms and still left people standing in the hall.
"Some of my greatest blessings are in this room today," Coleman told the crowd as he promised his family, friends, fellow judges and well-wishers that "every day I will bring my best to this job."
Coleman spent 25 years as an assistant state attorney before resigning last year to run for county judge.
The nearly hourlong ceremony for Coleman included speeches by judges who have played pivotal roles in Coleman's life, including L. Arthur Lawrence, retired justice of the 1st District Court of Appeal. Lawrence was Coleman's first boss after law school when Lawrence was serving as 3rd Judicial Circuit State Attorney.
Lawrence said he drove to Gainesville looking for senior law school students who would be willing to move to the rural circuit after graduation and met Coleman.
"I saw that he had graduated with honors in economics so I knew he must not be a dumb-dumb," Lawrence said.
Lawrence said he was willing to offer Coleman the job under one condition - that Coleman get his hair cut.
"He quickly assured me he could take care of that," Lawrence told the crowd.
The man who will share an office suite with Coleman for the next several years, Circuit Judge Julian E. Collins, publicly offered to help Coleman learn the judicial ropes by providing him with "the benefit of my stupidity and my wisdom."
For Coleman, the ceremony was a time for him to publicly thank those who had helped him.
"I especially thank those who opposed me in court," Coleman said. "Opposing viewpoints are what makes our system of justice work."

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