Long County judicial officials, community leaders, dignitaries and residents paid tribute to former Long County State Court Judge Richard Phillips on Wednesday when a painting of the legal legacy was unveiled in a courtroom at the Long County courthouse.
Phillips’ lifelong friend Sheriff Cecil Nobles attended the ceremony. “He always represented the city and county well. He was a great judge, a great citizen and a great lawyer who was known throughout Georgia. He was one of the finest persons that I have ever known and I miss him,” Nobles said.
Long County Clerk of Court Frank Middleton, who grew up with Phillips and worked with him in the court system, said, “Me and him went to school together and hunted and fished all through high school. He was a good friend and it was a privilege and distinct honor to know Richard Phillips … We will miss him.”
Phillips was born in 1938. He graduated as valedictorian from Long County High School. He earned his undergraduate degree from Georgia Southern College and his law degree from the University of Georgia in 1963. After law school, Phillips moved back to Ludowici where he practiced law and served as the Ludowici clerk of court, the Long County Chamber of Commerce president, the Long County Health Department chairman and the attorney for the city of Ludowici and the Long County Board of Education.
Phillips, who was the third state court judge for Long County, was elected in 1964 and served until his death on Feb. 25, 2010. He was the longest-serving state court judge in Georgia.
Phillips’ daughter, Amy Phillips, who lives in Atlanta, and his sister, Margaret Ruiz, who lives in Richmond Hill, also attended the portrait-unveiling ceremony.
“Everybody respected him and was glad to have him as their attorney. He also was respected as a judge, helping as many people as he could and always treating everyone fair,” Ruiz said.
Amy Phillips, who followed her father into the legal field as an attorney, said, “He was very proud to be from here and he loved Long County. He always tried to help anyone that he could. He had a man who went before him in court one day for breaking into a warehouse. When my dad asked him why he did it, the man said he broke into the place because it was raining … my dad told him he had to leave the county and then gave him $20. That’s how my dad was.”
Phillips was replaced as the Long County state judge by Judge Jeffrey Arnold.
“It’s been said that if you expect the best, you’ll get the best. Judge Phillips was the best,” Arnold said of said of his predecessor.