Chief Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation was honored Friday afternoon with the unveiling of a portrait that will hang at the Rockdale County Courthouse. Nation is shown here with the artist, Alan Caomin Xie, who is a professor of art at Clayton State University and has had more than 40 exhibitions of his work worldwide. The portrait was commissioned by the Rockdale County Bar Association. Nation will retire at the end of the month after 20 years on the bench. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
CONYERS -- Hundreds of associates, friends and family turned out Friday afternoon to honor retiring Chief Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation and witness the unveiling of his portrait that will hang in the Rockdale County Courthouse.
The portrait, painted by Alan Caomin Xie, a professor of art at Clayton State University, was commissioned by the Rockdale County Bar Association and paid for through donations by the bar association and well-wishers.
Nation, who is completing his 20th year on the bench in the Rockdale Circuit, did not seek re-election this year. Those who have worked with Nation through the years in the legal system came Friday to remark upon his wisdom, his passion for the law and his commitment to the community and the nation.
Attorney Gil Gainer, who as a young attorney practiced law in Nation's firm for three years, thanked Nation for his leadership and service.
"There could be no better mentor than the one I had," said Gainer. "The three years I spent with him carried me for the next 30, and I'm very grateful for that."
Nation came to Conyers as a young attorney in 1970 and practiced law with Gus Barksdale and Clarence Vaughn, who served as chief judge prior to Nation. He later opened his own firm and was elected Magistrate Court judge and appointed as the first State Court judge in Rockdale before becoming a Superior Court judge in 1993.
Superior Court Judge David Irwin, who will become the next chief judge upon Nation's retirement at the end of the month, called Nation a traditionalist who follows the rules and is confident in his sense of right and wrong.
"He has an innate sense of security, of foundational belief, that he knew what was right and what was wrong," said Irwin.
The Rockdale Judicial Circuit was "Nation-built," said Irwin, praising Nation as a bulwark in the legal community.
"When I think of Judge Nation, I think of honor, loyalty and duty to his family, his community and his country," said Irwin.
Nation, who broke his hip in a recent fall and used a wheelchair to enter the courtroom Friday, stood at the podium to thank those who came to honor him and wish him well.
Nation said he viewed the courtroom as hallowed ground, although levity in the courtroom is helpful at times to ease the fears of those who are intimidated by the legal process.
"This is where you come to find the truth," he said.
Nation also said serving as chief judge was the biggest honor of his life, adding that he believes the judicial branch is one area of government where people still have faith that it functions properly.
"The court can have a significant and serious impact on the community and the lives of the people in the community," said Nation.
Nation thanked those present Friday for the support given to him and his family.
"Your success in life is dependent upon the people around you," he said. "From the time I came here, I've been surrounded by the finest people in the world."
In addition to the portrait presented Friday, Conyers Mayor Randy Mills read a proclamation declaring Nov. 30 as Judge Sidney L. Nation Day in the city. In addition, Nation received a plaque from the Division of Child Support Services recognizing his "firm and effective" decision-making on behalf of the welfare of children.