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Area’s newest judge
Bushnell takes oath to join J&DR court
Bob Bushnell is helped into his new judge’s robe by his daughter, Elizabeth Myers (left), and his wife, Sharon Bushnell, just before he was sworn as a judge in the 21st District Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Friday. The event had been scheduled for the Henry County Courthouse but it was moved to the County Administration Building because of the crowd of about 250 people at the ceremony. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
After Bob Bushnell took the oath of his new position as judge in the 21st District Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Friday, he said the line “so help me God” at the end was optional.
“It was in parentheses,” Bushnell said Friday to the more than 250 people who packed the Summerlin Meeting Room of the Henry County Administration Building to witness the swearing-in of the area’s newest judge.
But it was not optional for Bushnell, and he devoted much of his comments to explaining why.
“First of all, because it’s a prayer” and signifies that he is “seeking God’s help” in his new position, Bushnell said. Justice, he noted, is one of God’s commandments, and just as Bushnell tried to ensure justice was served during his 23 years as Henry County commonwealth’s attorney, he aspires to do the same thing as a judge.
His second reason for keeping the line is “that it turns a mere oath, raising my hand and saying, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it,’ to a vow. And it’s a vow I wanted to make” in front of witnesses, Bushnell said.
Looking around the room, Bushnell said he saw his wife, Sharon, their daughter, Elizabeth Myers of Richmond, her husband, Josh Myers, and other family members. He also noted the presence of colleagues, friends “and neighbors from all walks of life,” as well as teachers and those who have “given me advice ... frequently when I needed it and didn’t know it,” he said.
Bushnell repeated the oath of office after Circuit Court Judge David Williams. Other judges present included Circuit Court Judges G. Carter Greer of Martinsville and Martin F. Clark of Patrick County; Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court Judge Susan Deatherage; retired General District Court judges Frank Greenwalt and Morgan Armstrong; Robert Humphreys and William G. Petty, both of the Virginia Court of Appeals; and others.
State Sen. Bill Stanley and Dels. Danny Marshall and Charles Poindexter also attended, as did numerous state and local law enforcement officers, including Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry, Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper and Martinsville Police Chief Mike Rogers.
“I want to thank you, each and every one of you, for what you’ve meant to me through the years. Each of you has touched me more than you can know,” Bushnell said. “I’m happy as can be, and I’m real scared. I wanted to be surrounded by a host of friends” when he took oath, and “I will do my best to make you proud.”
Even still, “I’m mindful that while I’m talking, some people who are dear to me are not here,” Bushnell said of those who were unable to attend the ceremony because of various reasons, including distance, death, age and illness.
“I’m very sad my parents can’t be here,” he said, and added both are in their 90s.
“My dad is my role model. (He is) the most chipper and upbeat” person Bushnell said he ever met. As a younger man, Bushnell said his father walked from Charlottesville to Richmond “in a day. Now, he can’t make it here. My mother used to remember everything. Now (she) has Alzheimer’s,” Bushnell said, as he fought tears.
Regaining his composure, Bushnell promised to “work hard, do my best to build and maintain relationships” and “strive to be open minded and succinct.”
He also vowed to “see just and practical solutions to the problems” that he is presented.
Bushnell’s term as commonwealth’s attorney technically will end at midnight tonight.
As he assumes his new position on Monday, Bushnell said “I want to do the right thing, and I want to do what will work. ... I will strive to uphold justice ... so help me God.”
Before he was sworn in, Christine Slate, president of the Martinsville-Henry County Bar, and Chris Corbett, president of the Patrick County Bar, presented Bushnell with his judge’s robes, following bar association tradition. Bushnell’s wife and daughter helped him put one on.
Judge Williams then repeated what Judge Jackson Kiser said when Williams took his oath. Williams said Kiser “told me young judges need to speak softly and carry a big gavel. I will pass it on to you, and I hope you have as much luck with it as I do.”
With that, Williams handed Bushnell a mallet, and the crowd erupted in laughter and applause.
Before Bushnell took his oath, M. Andrew Nester was sworn in by Williams as the new county commonwealth’s attorney.
Williams listed several people, including himself and Bushnell, who held the county prosecutor’s position “in recent memory” before Nester took his oath — A.L. Philpott, the late Speaker of the House; now retired Judge Kenneth Covington; and Roscoe Reynolds, a former state senator.
“Excluding myself, you have some pretty big shoes to fill,” Williams quipped before administering the oath.
Nester said afterward that he hopes to follow in the footsteps “of those who have gone before me. ... This is truly a humbling experience.”
He thanked “the good Lord above for putting me where I am,” his wife, Christy, and his parents, Wade and Vicky Nester.
“And Bob, thank you. You’re more than just a boss or a friend,” Nester said, calling Bushnell a mentor.