Behind the Gavel: Judge Noah Powers a Middletown native, former mayor and model train enthusiast

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

This is the sixth part of the Journal-News’ “Behind the Gavel” series featuring Butler County judges. It takes a look at those who make difficult decisions daily and how they live outside of the courtroom.

As a young man who excelled in math and science, Butler County Common Pleas Judge Noah Powers II was set on being part of the race to put a man on the moon. It was while reading his hometown newspaper that his vocation took a turn.

At the age of 16, Powers was stuffing grocery inserts in to the Middletown Journal as part of his job as a paperboy when he looked down and saw an article about Boeing laying off 40,000 aeronautical engineers.

“I didn’t want to get a degree and walk straight to the unemployment line,” Powers said.

He briefly explored becoming a doctor.

“I decided that just didn’t appeal to me, Powers said. “It was the ’60s and an exciting time. I read about college protests and all the things going on out there.”

A ’60s song, “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” struck a chord with Powers, coupled with watching “Perry Mason,” and he thought he would give the legal profession a try.

“It sounded exciting,” Powers said.

After graduating from Middletown schools and Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky., Powers received a law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University in Cleveland. He spent years in private practice in Middletown as managing partner at Repper, Powers & Pagan, LTD. and also prosecuted high stakes cases as an assistant county prosecutor for 10 years.

Is it as exciting as he thought it would be?

“Oh, every bit,” he answered quickly.

Powers was the late Butler County Common Pleas Judge George Elliott’s prosecutor, litigating cases in the Historic Courthouse back when there was no Government Services Center.

He described the courthouse and trial process as a whirlwind in a time when the gallery was packed with spectators, long before the internet and livestreaming allowed people to watch from their phones.

“We were the heavy hitters. But I enjoyed watching lawyers try cases as much as trying them myself,” Powers said. “I learned so much.”

Powers was elected to the common pleas bench in 2006 and he admits he misses being a part of some of that courtroom whirlwind. He said the judgeship is very “isolating.”

At 70, Powers will leave office next year because he cannot run again due to age limits. That’s when he will likely be able to dive further into his hobby that has taken over the basement of his Middletown home — model railroading.

When Powers was 3-years-old he received a windup train for Christmas. His parents and relatives gifted each other cartons of cigarettes, as was a custom in the ’50s. A train tunnel was fashioned out the the cartons for Powers’ toy train, and the rest is history.

“I was hooked. Seeing that train run through that little carton tunnel,” Power said.

Today his train hobby takes up one large room, goes through a wall and loops back around. Powers said he’s working on the loop back around now after some negotiating with his wife Peggy.

“I had to wait a long time to get consent from my wife to go through the wall,” Powers said.

He is interested in model trains from the transition period of steam to diesel in the mid- to late-1950s. And he models them from the Pennsylvania Railroad that used to come into Middletown. Powers said he was fascinated by the steam engines as a kid watching from his aunt’s upstairs apartment on First Avenue.

The Powers’ have two children and two grandchildren. While his son showed a “mild” interest in his father’s hobby, Powers’ 4-year-old grandson has shown a lot of enthusiasm.

“He is really into it,” Powers said. “I took him to his first train show last weekend.”

During his “lawyering days,” Powers coached his kids’ soccer teams and played softball and soccer himself until an injury took him off the field.

He also spent three years on Middletown City Council, one of those as mayor trying to make a difference in the city he felt was “getting beat up.”

Powers said he doesn’t see himself going back into politics or the legal whirlwind full-time after leaving the bench.

“I might do some limited work. Not something that is about money. More in the nature of civil rights litigation,” he said.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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