Judge John Harvey, long-time resident of Pembroke, graduate of Bryan County High School and accomplished local Superior Court judge, died Monday after an extended illness. He was 72.
Looking back on his life and contributions to the community, each of his colleagues had their own stories, but they all agreed on one thing:
“He was one of the finest human beings,” said Superior Court Judge Charles Paul Rose.
“Judge Harvey was, in my opinion, one of the finest men I’ve ever known,” said Liberty County Clerk of Courts Barry Wilkes.
After serving in the military until 1963, Harvey began a career in law in Pembroke.
During his long career, he served as the attorney for Pembroke State Bank, the Bryan County School Board, International Paper and Seaboard Railroad, and served as solicitor general for Bryan County.
He also served as Bryan County’s attorney and the city attorney for both Pembroke and Richmond Hill. In 1974, Gov. Jimmy Carter appointed Harvey to the Superior Court of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit where he served for more than 30 years.
“He’s role model to all of us,” Rose, a colleague of 29 years, said. “I was a lawyer who appeared before him hundreds of times and the thing that stands out is I never saw him angry, I never saw him rude to anyone. His greatest legacy is the respect and dignity that he ran his court room with.”
Those who worked with him said he cared a lot about each individual he saw, and worked hard to help others create better lives for themselves.
In addition to the impression his compassion and dedication made on his peers, Harvey is said to have had a wonderful personality.
“He was a really funny man,” Rose said. “And he was the best story teller. He liked to go to his farm and he liked to hunt, but most of his stories were just about funny things that happened in life.”
Harvey leaves a wife of 32 years, Olivia Harvey, two sons, and countless relatives and friends.
Although he will be missed by family and colleagues, many who knew Harvey said he will be remembered by the people whose lives he touched throughout his career.
“He’s affected many lives and he’s been a mentor to a lot of young lawyers. From the bench, he helped turn many people’s lives around,” Wilkes said. “He genuinely cared about people and that’s rare. We’re all going to miss him. He made an indelible mark and we’re really blessed.”