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THE LETTER WRITER couldn't, he told us, comply with our letters policy requiring a full name and address because he had given his word ("sworn under oath") to the judge not to. But he "just had to tell someone, anyone," about his feelings about the judge, and so he wrote.
First, the background: Those who were fortunate enough not to have had dealings with the Fredericksburg Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court may not have known Judge William "Jerry" Cox--in his professional capacity, anyway. He died the other day at age 81. Practically a Fredericksburg native (his parents moved here when he was just months old), he was a James Monroe High School and University of Virginia graduate. He was also a husband and the father of eight kids, which pretty much guaranteed that his understanding of human nature was born of field experience, not just books.
After practicing law here for about 20 years, he became a judge in 1977, and, for the next 17 years applied his wit and wisdom to court cases. Judge David Peterson, who now presides over the city's JDR court, says that Judge Cox's personality was "larger than life," that he was "a garrulous man who loved interacting with people."
That's an assessment with which our letter writer would agree.
"At a time in my life when I wore a younger man's clothes," he writes, "I did wrong. [Judge Cox] showed me the way to fix my problems, make right my wrongs, and lead a good and just life. To this day, whenever I'm faced with right and wrong, I think of him. I have never been in trouble with the law since! Judge Cox is to thank for that.
"Judge Cox was different [from most judges]. Way different. He had an air about him. He was personable, tolerant, and even at times jovial on the bench. He made you feel like you were getting a fair shake when you came before him. I always wanted to repay Judge Cox for his kind words and fair judgement on me when no one else gave me the second chance.
"Judge Cox was a good man, and a fine judge. His name will forever be spoken with honor in my home. My deepest condolences to his family. R.I.P., Honorable Judge Cox."
That's true testimony from one whose life was changed by a good and wise jurist.