AP NEWS

COURTS Portraits honor former judges

May 13, 2019

Portraits of three former local judges were unveiled at the Jefferson County Courthouse Friday morning in front of friends, family and members of the Beaumont legal community.

Painted by local artist Ernest Bost, the portraits honor Jack R. King, Milton Gunn Shuffield and Donald Floyd.

Floyd was the longest-serving of the three, with 29 years spent as Jefferson County’s 172nd District Court judge. He also spent six years on the Jefferson County Court at-law No. 3 bench, the first judge to serve after commissioners created the court in 1983.

“It’s been a number of years I’ve been with the county coming to the courthouse every day,” he said before his portrait was revealed. “I enjoyed the experience.”

Floyd did not seek re-election in 2018 because of age limits on the bench. State law mandates district court judges must be between the ages of 25 and 74.

Mitch Templeton has served in Floyd’s former position since January.

During his time on the bench, Floyd had a large hand in county politics and the molding of young judges and attorneys.

When he was appointed in 1982, he was the only African-American elected official in the Jefferson County Courthouse. In that role, he inspired many who would come after him, including local attorney Melody Chappell, who unsuccessfully ran for Floyd’s seat last year.

“He was the first African-American judge I’d ever seen,” she said previously. “That inspired me, not really to be a judge but to see him on the bench representing and doing such a great job. He treated everyone with respect.”

Jefferson County 136th District Court Judge Baylor Wortham, who underwrote the judges’ portraits, recalled a “unique” case he sought Floyd’s advice on as a young judge.

“So I laid (the argument) out for him and he thought for a moment and said, ‘Hmm, that’s a good question. I don’t know.’ He paused and he goes, ‘Tell me what you think,’” Wortham recounted to Friday’s audience.

Wortham then explained to Floyd the way he saw the issue, what seemed like the best resolution and what led him to that decision. Floyd agreed, showing Wortham no matter how much time was spent on an issue, it doesn’t have to be overthought.

“Look at what the issue is before you, make a decision and even if you get it wrong, you always have the ability to go back and fix it,” Wortham said of what that exchange taught him. “Go with your instincts. Go with your gut. Go with what you think is right. That has been a very strong bellwether for me in my first term as judge.”

He said Floyd also taught him the importance of staying diligent, no matter how many years one spends on the bench.

Floyd presided over many notable cases during his tenure, including a 2017 temporary injunction order requiring Port Arthur’s German Pellets to follow a hazard plan after a months-long fire, canceling a Beaumont Independent School District trustee election in 2015, and allowing the state-appointed board of managers to serve BISD until May 2017.

King died in January. Shuffield served for 21 years before retiring in 2016.

kaitlin.bain@beaumontenterprise.com

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