Judge John C. Godbold, who died in December, was a good man. He was well known and highly respected among his peers on the bench and throughout the legal profession. The veteran federal appeals judge left a tremendous legacy in judicial circles. All Alabamiams should be proud of Judge Godbold’s many accomplishments.
Judge Godbold was named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966 and became chief judge of the Fifth Circuit in 1981. When the circuit later was divided into two circuits, Judge Godbold become chief judge of the new Eleventh Circuit. That made him the only person to serve as chief judge of two different circuits. Judge Godbold left the bench in 1986 to become director of the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. The center is the training and research arm of the federal court system. After three years in that role, he returned to the Eleventh Circuit in senior status.
Judge Godbold was born in the rural Alabama town of Coy and educated in the Selma public schools. He was a partner in the Montgomery law firm of Rives and Godbold. He received a degree from Auburn University and a law degree from Harvard University. He then served in World War II as an artillery officer in the U.S. Army. In 1996, Judge Godbold was honored with the Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award. Judge Godbold dedicated his life to improve the legal profession and the judiciary. That is a fitting legacy for a man who loved the law.
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