Retired Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Followill has died; he was 87

COLUMBUS, Georgia (WRBL) — Retired Chief Justice Kenneth Followill has passed away. He died Sunday night after a short illness at the Columbus Hospice House.

He was 87.

Judge Followill received his bachelor’s degree from the University of the South and his law degree from Emory. In 1978 he was appointed Chief Justice of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit and retired in 2009 after 31 years of service. He was then appointed Chief Justice and continued to retain an office in the Government Center.

Supreme Court Justice Gil McBride remembered Followill as a mentor when he returned home to practice law.

“I tried my first jury trial before Judge Followill,” McBride said. “Judge Followill was courteous and encouraging to a new lawyer like myself and conducted the proceedings in a respectful, firm and fair manner. I think many lawyers would share that assessment.”

Followill has earned a reputation as a great trial judge, McBride said.

“Judge Followill was astute, knowledgeable of the law and very precise and exacting in the matters before him,” said McBride. “He had high standards about how lawyers should behave and stand up for their clients. He had a dry sense of humor that sometimes surfaced in the courtroom, usually at just the right moment, when a particularly tense moment was eased by a subtle joke from the judge’s seat.”

And his memory was a great asset on the bench, McBride said.

“This has enabled him to act as a valuable source of institutional knowledge for our bank, bar and circuit,” said McBride. “For example, a few years ago, when preliminary discussions were under way for a new courthouse in Columbus, it was valuable to have Judge Followill on our planning group. After all, he was involved in the planning of the current government center more than 50 years ago. He understood what decisions were made in this planning process, why they were made, and what worked and what didn’t. This is the kind of knowledge that cannot be found in any book. Only someone with first-hand knowledge can bring that perspective; Judge Followill has been that person in so many situations.”

McBride came on the bench when Followill retired.

“I was honored to take over from Judge Followill when I went on the bench,” McBride said. “When I became chief judge, I really appreciated being able to push ideas past him and use him as a sounding board. In his long career there was very little that Judge Followill had not seen or addressed. He and I stayed in frequent contact. He loved the law, the lawyers and the courtroom. Although the past few months have been tough, I’m glad they’ve been short and numerous. I am pleased that Judge Followill was able to preside over the Court until last year and was always willing to contribute.”

Followill was appointed to the first Georgia Judicial Council in 1973 by then-Governor Jimmy Carter and eventually became the council’s chairman. Judge Followill is survived by a son and a daughter. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced by the Striffler-Hamby Mortuary.

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