Judge Herbert Phipps was the guest speaker for the Albany Civil Rights Institute’s Community Night program Thursday. Phipps began his legal career in 1971 working in the law firm of C.B. King in Albany, and in April of 2010 he became a presiding judge of the Court of
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ALBANY, Ga. — There are times when injustice motivates a career choice. It was injustice that sent a Baker County farm boy into the law.
Before he became a presiding judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals, Herbert E. Phipps came from Baker County to live in Albany. It was here that he frequented the courts and began a long relationship with C.B. King, an attorney with a history of standing up for the rights of others.
“I grew up in Baker County, where it was so rigidly segregated that I was in the fifth grade before I discovered that white boys went to school, too. I found out they went to school, but a different school,” Phipps said. “I went to high school here in Albany, and I began to hang out in the courts.”
Phipps spoke at the Albany Civil Rights Institute Thursday before almost 100 people about his becoming an attorney and eventually a judge, while explaining the way the court system works.
When Phipps went to Case Western Reserve University School of Law, he studied the way the law worked in the late ’60s. The first case in his Constitutional Law class involved the lynching of a black man by white men in, of all places, Baker County.
The men were found guilty of misdemeanors, appealed and were found not guilty because “the jury said the government didn’t prove the lynching was intentional.”
Phipps eventually worked with King and other civil rights lawyers, and he gained a reputation as one who would stand up for the rights of blacks, women, older people and anyone who was denied their rights as people.
Then in an area that stretched from Macon to the Florida line, which had no black judges, a part-time job as Magistrate and associate judge opened in Dougherty County. Phipps seized the chance and eventually moved up to the position he holds today.
As one of 12 Appeals Court judges, he works his share of about 3,500 cases a year.
“Times have changed a bit because of the work of C.B. King and many others,” Phipps said. “Things are a lot better now, but there is still a need for vigilant lawyers. Justice is still denied, so do not witness injustice and do nothing.
“We need good people to stand up to the bad. In my experience, if you have the courage to stand up things will change a great deal.”