Judge A. Wallace Cato honored by the Bar Association prior to his retirement

Published 3:16 pm Friday, November 18, 2016

By Brandon O’Connor


The illustrious career of Superior Court judge A. Wallace Cato will come to a conclusion at the end of December as he chose to not seek reelection to another term on the bench and instead retire. In open court on Monday, The Bainbridge-Decatur County Bar Association read a proclamation honoring Judge Cato and his 36 years of service on the bench. The proclamation was written by retired attorney T. Harold Lambert and read by Jim Conger, the president of the bar association,

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“I was very honored to be able to do it,” Conger said. “I have been practicing law in Bainbridge since 1974, which means that I knew Judge Cato when he was the District Attorney before he was the judge. So I have practiced before him his entire judicial career.”

The proclamation detailed his career path from his graduation from Bainbridge High School, through law school at the University of Georgia, his time spent as District Attorney of the South Georgia Judicial Circuit and his years on the bench.

“It was certainly an honor to hear those kinds of remarks,” Cato said. “It was more meaningful coming from the bar, my peers. They’ve allowed me to serve the bar and I appreciate the folks in Decatur County and the South Georgia Judicial Circuit for allowing me to represent them both as judge and DA.”

The bar commended Cato for “his exemplary, effective and judicious services for more than a half-century” and “acknowledged his outstanding personal, professional and judicial insight, respect, devotion and dedication that have been the hallmark of his character, disposition and temperament.”

“I appreciate that they would say such a thing,” Cato said. “I tried to give it my best without any favor or prejudice. Just call them as I see them. That’s all you can do.”

Conger said that he was honored to have the chance to read the proclamation because he has the utmost respect for Cato even though they battled when Cato was DA and he was a defense attorney and Cato made decisions against him as a judge.

“He has always, from the day he first started practicing law to the day he eventually leaves the bench, been the hardest working among us,” Conger said. “When he was the District Attorney, he was always super prepared and ready to try his cases and he tried them very very well. As judge, when you entered his courtroom or a hearing room, he always knew at least as much about the case as either of the lawyers opposing each other and often knew more about the case and the law than the lawyers themselves.”

Cato has served as the Chief Judge since 1982, and his impact on the circuit will remain long after his retirement.

“He has served the bench with honor, integrity, consistency,” Cecilia Willis, the clerk of superior court, said. “I think an unmatched drive for the position that he held. He has absolutely dedicated himself and his life to being judge of the superior court.”

Retiring at the same time as Cato will be his longtime secretary Linda Rentz. She has worked with him since 1964 when she was a junior in high school.

“She’s been the backbone of the office,” Cato said. “She’s extremely intelligent and conscientious and I’ve never seen somebody as conscientious as she is and has been my entire career. “

A public retirement reception will be held for Cato and Rentz on Dec. 16 at the Firehouse Gallery from 4 to 7 p.m.

“Bring your Judge Cato stories,” Willis said.

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