COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Retired Superior Court Chief Judge Kenneth Followill has passed away. He died at the Columbus Hospice House Sunday night following a brief illness.
He was 87.
A service will be held on June 2 at 2 p.m. in Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Columbus.
Judge Followill received his bachelor’s degree from the University of the South and his law degree from Emory. In 1978 he was appointed as a superior court judge for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, retiring from the bench in 2009 after 31 years of service. He was then appointed to Senior Judge status and continued to maintain an office at the Government Center.
Superior Court Judge Gil McBride remembered Followill as a mentor when he returned home to practice law.
“I tried my first jury trial before Judge Followill,” McBride said. “Judge Followill was courteous and encouraging to a new lawyer like me, guiding the proceedings in a way that was respectful, firm, and fair. I think many lawyers would share this assessment.”
Followill earned the reputation as a great trial judge, McBride said.
“Judge Followill was canny, well-versed in the law, with a very precise and exacting approach to the matters that came before him,” McBride said. “He had high standards for how lawyers should behave and advocate for their clients. He had a dry sense of humor that sometimes came across in the courtroom, usually at just the right time, when a particularly tense moment was made a little less tense with some subtle wit from the bench.”
And his memory was a great asset on the bench, McBride said.
“This allowed him to function as a valuable source of institutional knowledge to our bench, bar and circuit,” McBride said. “For example, when preliminary discussions were underway for a new courthouse in Columbus a few years ago, it was valuable to have Judge Followill in our planning group. After all, he had helped plan the current Government Center more than 50 years ago. He understood what decisions were made in that planning process, why they were made, and what had worked and not worked. This is the sort of knowledge that you can’t find in a book. Only someone with firsthand knowledge can bring this perspective to the table; Judge Followill was that person in so many situations.”
McBride came on the bench when Followill retired.
“I had the honor to succeed to Judge Followill’s seat when I went on the bench,” McBride said. “I valued being able to run ideas past him and use him as a sounding board once I became Chief Judge. In his long career, there was very little that Judge Followill had not seen or addressed. He and I stayed in frequent contact. He loved the law, lawyers, and the courtroom. Although the last few months have been tough ones, I am glad that they were brief and few in number. I am happy that Judge Followill was able to preside in court until last year, always willing to make his contribution.”
Followill was appointed by then Governor Jimmy Carter to the inaugural Georgia Judicial Council in 1973, eventually becoming chairman of the Council. Judge Followill is survived by a son and daughter.