Thelma Ward (c) listens Tuesday as Morrow officials dedicate their Municipal Court in memory of her late husband, Judge Frost Ward. Sitting with Ward were Court Administrator Essie West (l) and Ward’s daughter, Kathy Shipley.
MORROW Former Morrow Municipal Court Judge Frost Ward was usually stern with offenders who came before his bench, but it became personal whenever he dealt with code violators, his wife said.
Thelma Ward said that’s because the couple lived in Morrow for 36 years and he saw code violations as counterproductive to the quality of life he and many other residents tried to build. He wouldn’t tolerate people who didn’t want to help keep Morrow beautiful, she said.
“He liked for it to be a vibrant area,” Ward said. “Even when people came before him on code enforcement charges, he didn’t like that because he wanted them to keep their place up because this is where he lived and he was proud to live in Morrow.”
Morrow officials and residents shared several special memories of Ward, who died in 2010, at the dedication of the Municipal Court room in honor of Frost Ward at city hall Tuesday. He served as Municipal Court judge from 1973 until 2009.
City Manager Jeff Eady said town leaders had been contemplating dedicating the room in his honor for awhile but City Solicitor Jerry Patrick gave him the final nudge to make it happen.
“He just basically said, ‘Jeff, when are you all going to name this courtroom?’ ” said Eady. “It’s not my decision to make so I ran it by the mayor and council and they all agreed and said, ‘Absolutely, let’s make this thing happen.’ ”
The ceremony was short but heavy on pomp and circumstance.
A member of the Morrow Fire Department played the bagpipes as he lead the procession of firefighters and police officers who escorted Thelma Ward into the courtroom. Eady and Court Administrator Essie West offered a few remarks, and a photo of the judge and gold lettering which read “Honorable Frost Ward Court Room” was unveiled on the wall behind the judge’s bench, which is also the council dais.
For Thelma Ward, the dedication of the courtroom in her husband’s memory was “such an honor.” She said he was a native of Troup County who moved to the Atlanta area to work for Delta Air Lines while putting himself through law school at night. He felt honored when the city picked him to be its municipal court judge, she said.
A newspaper clipping featuring a photo of his swearing-in was on display at a post-ceremony reception.
“I always said Frost was the country boy who came to town and made good,” Ward said.
She added that her husband would hand out sentences which, while tough, were intended to be learning experiences that would help offenders become better people. He did that because he enjoyed helping people, she added.
“He was a fair judge but yet he was stern and let people know what they did was not the correct thing,” said Ward. “He did help a lot of people.”
She later added, “He tried to give people a fair shake but yet he knew he had a job to do.”
Eady said he wasn’t sure what to expect when the judge came to visit him shortly after he was appointed city manager in 2009.
“One of the first things that happened was he rode his little cart into my office and said, ‘Hey,’ and I was like, ‘Oh God, I’ve already done something wrong,’ ” Eady said. “He told me he was going to retire and I just said, ‘Wow.’ ”
Eady added that Ward had a way of making his presence known.
“He was a great guy with a big, thunderous, booming voice and when he came into a room, by God, you knew it,” said Eady. “But as soon as you got to know him, he was just a teddy bear.”
Former City Councilman Danny Rudd added that he was an exemplary figure for the city. Rudd, who served on the council in the late 1980s, said he was friends with Ward for about 40 years.
“He was a real good person, he was a good Christian man,” said Rudd.
Rudd said the decision to dedicate the courtroom in the judge’s honor was fitting.
“It couldn’t happen to a better person,” he said.