County's first full-time black magistrate judge takes office

LAWRENCEVILLE - Robert D. Walker Jr. said he was "ecstatic" Friday afternoon after being sworn in as the county's first black full-time magistrate judge.

"I've been excited for a couple of weeks now," he said. "It means a whole lot to me."

For years, local civil rights leaders have been decrying the lack of diversity on the bench.

As he celebrated Walker's swearing in Friday, Chief Magistrate George Hutchinson said he was pleased by the judge's appointment, but that it was made as a result of his qualifications and not his skin color.

"He's had years and years of wonderful work," Hutchinson said. "I think it's a good thing. The judiciary is well-served to have a judicial contingent that reflects the community it's responsible for."

Walker, who started his career in the Air Force, was selected from 24 applicants for the position.

A University of Florida graduate, Walker distinguished himself as a qualified and capable attorney who was often assigned the most difficult cases, Hutchinson said.

Melissa Walker, the judge's wife, said she and the couple's three children were proud of him and excited to be at the standing-room only swearing in ceremony held in a Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center courtroom.

Walker, who called himself bashful after taking the oath, said this has long been a goal of his. He said he truly thought being a judge is one of the best jobs in the world.

"I can't express how important and honorable a day this is for me," he said. "It has more meaning than I can put into words."