- Michael D. Pitman Staff Writer
Friday was filled with great joy and sadness for Greg Howard when he became the newest judge in General Division of the Butler County Common Pleas Court.
While he was joyous of filling a career aspiration, it was to take the place of his best friend, the late Craig Hedric who suddenly died on Nov. 13. He’ll begin hearing cases on Feb. 27.
It was also a bittersweet moment because the late Middletown Municipal Court Judge Mark Wall, who unexpectedly died on Feb. 11, was supposed to deliver the oath of office to Howard. That honor was to thank Wall “and to honor him for taking a chance on me eight years ago in asking me to sit in for him as an acting judge in Middletown Municipal Court,” said Howard, 56.
“I would not be where I am today if he (Wall) had not done that, and it is where I first learned this side of the profession and the responsibility this position carries,” he said after being sworn in by 12th District Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Robert Hendrickson.
The stories of Wall’s compassion and caring emerged in the days following his death, and Howard said, “I hope to have that compassion that Judge Wall had.”
As Howard put on his judicial robe, friend and legal colleague Chris Pagan made sure to point out the blue piping in front, and the red and white piping around the cuffs.
The blue is fitting because Howard graduated from the University of Kentucky. The red could represent his best friend and judicial inspiration, Hedric and Wall, who are alums of Miami University.
“Today I’m very optimistic because today we’ve got a common pleas judge who I believe has the character, the intelligence, and the values to manage the institution of the court of common pleas in a way we can be proud of and does society good,” Pagan said.
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Howard’s wife, local attorney Melynda Cook, reminded her husband of five things as he takes on this new chapter of life: be kind and understanding; remember and learn from those judges that came before you; you’re still a person and the ability to change lives; remember the life of an attorney; and follow and stay true to the law because you can’t please everyone.
Howard came to Butler County in 1984 as the bailiff for Common Pleas Judge Henry Brewer, taking the place of then-budding attorney Pat Moeller, the current mayor of Hamilton. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Howard is the son of a physician who quit law school to become a doctor.
“He always regretted that decision, he always wished he stayed in law school,” he said. “But he was the one that stressed to me and my sisters to not be satisfied with just a college education but to go further in an attempt to better ourselves. We all listened.”
Howard said everyone has a plan in life, but his plan never included Friday afternoon’s swearing in, “but that all changed on Nov. 13, 2016.”
“After (Craig’s) death I wanted to honor that legacy that my best friend had started,” Howard said. “An occasion such as this marks both a beginning and an end. In embracing this new challenge I am all too aware of what I must leave behind and as well as the road ahead of me.
“What’s important to me as I go forward is that I maintain the continuity of the office that I inherit and what Craig has started. The torch might get handed to, but you are wise to not forget that whoever passed the torch to you ran a great distance to get there. In the grand scheme of things, there’s still a finger on the torch that’s being passed.”