ALBANY -- Eleanor Weaver's no longer around to make sure her son, Chris, does the things he needs to do to be successful.
But her presence looms large in his life all the same.
"Everything I do now, everything I've ever accomplished in my life, I've done out of fear," attorney Christopher Warren said. "Not a fear of any kind of physical punishment, but a fear that I would disappoint my mother. She has always been my motivator."
Raised as a "welfare child" by a single mother on the streets of inner-city Washington, D.C., Warren -- at the prodding of his mother -- decided at an early age that he would not be a cliche, that he would not be a stereotype. He endured the taunts of other neighborhood kids each Sunday as Eleanor insisted he dress in his nicest clothes and attend church.
And he knew that, unlike a large majority of his peers, there was never any question that he would stay in school and get his diploma.
"My mother taught me that while I was not better than anyone else, I should want to be better at whatever I did," Warren, an attorney with the Atlanta-based Kenneth S. Nugent P.C. firm, said. "I am who I am today because of her."
Today, Warren is a candidate for what is expected to be a vacant State Court judgeship in the Dougherty Judicial Circuit. Judge John Salter has not officially announced his retirement plans, but he is expected to do so before qualifying begins in May.
After graduating from Baltimore's Banneker High School, Warren received a scholarship to attend nearby Howard University, where he studied elementary education. He knew, though, that the classroom was not necessarily his destiny.
"Even while I was studying elementary education at Howard, I was applying to law schools," he said. "I knew I wasn't going to put all of my eggs in one basket."
Before Warren turned his focus on the law, he realized the second part of his three-pronged life plan. He was granted an ROTC scholarship and joined the Marine Reserves. His goal of becoming a Marine officer was thwarted, however, when a damaged ear and impaired hearing left him physically unable to attain such a rank.
"I did, however, complete basic training at Pariss Island, and that was perhaps the best 90 days of my life," Warren said. "I was prepared for basic, and even though I still have physical scars from some of the obstacles the drill instructor put us through, I learned that there wasn't anything I couldn't do."
Warren attended Emory School of Law in Atlanta after receiving his degree from Howard, and in the summers he enhanced his education through the NAACP-sponsored Council for Legal Education Opportunity program at Georgetown University.
After graduating, Warren worked with District Court Judge Michael Bellamy in Phenix City, Ala., and upon passing the Georgia Bar Exam, he accepted a position with the Fulton County Public Defender's Office in Atlanta.
A fellow Emory graduate and friend, Albany attorney Ingrid Driskell, called Warren at a time when he was "starting to burn out" in Fulton County and sold him on an opportunity to do indigent defense work in Dougherty County.
"She told me it was twice the money for half the work, so that got my attention," Warren said. "But I also wanted a better situation for my family (which now includes wife Carol and their children Courtney, 16, Christopher, 12, and Christin Joy, 7). I felt -- and it has proven to be true -- that Dougherty County is a much better place to raise a family."
When the county's indigent defense system was converted to a public defense program, Warren was one of three finalists to become Dougherty's chief public defender. When he didn't get the position, one of the attorneys on the panel that made the selection, Albany law veteran Bob Beauchamp, said, "If they're not going to hire you, I want you to come work for me."
Warren practiced mostly civil law with Beauchamp and Associates before the firm dissolved, and afterward Warren opened his own practice and was appointed Albany city solicitor. Additionally, he reached back to his education roots and became a professor at Albany State University, teaching Constitutional Law, Judicial Process, Trial Law and history courses.
"Ironically, the first professor I had in the very first class I took at Howard was Portia Holmes Shields," he said. "She actually remembered me, and she brought me on to teach classes at ASU in 2000."
An attorney friend told him about an opening with Nugent's Albany law office; he interviewed for the position, and has tried civil cases since joining the firm in May of 2009. Nugent has given Warren his blessing in his quest for the judgeship.
Dougherty Magistrate Victoria Darrisaw will hold a campaign event Monday to announce her intention to seek the office as well.