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August 17th, 2017 08:11 a.m.


Judge O’Kelley dies at age 87, remembered as 'firm but fair'

POSTED: July 6, 2017 10:07 p.m.

Senior U.S. District Judge William O'Kelley

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Senior U.S. District Judge William O’Kelley died Wednesday night, his son confirmed. He was 87.

“I’ve always heard from lawyers that I know that he’s always been considered firm but fair in the courtroom, and I think dad always took pride in that description,” son William C. “Bo” O’Kelley Jr. said Thursday.

According to Emory University, O’Kelley was nominated by President Richard Nixon in 1970 to the federal court for the Northern District of Georgia. He previously worked as an assistant U.S. attorney.

O’Kelley’s son said the memorial service would be held at Glenn Memorial’s chapel on Emory University’s campus later this month, as the school was “very dear to his heart.” O’Kelley earned his bachelor’s degree and law degree from Emory.

“We all think that he was one of the finest judges around, and I will go so far as to say he was an outstanding father and mentor to both his family and to the law clerks that worked for him through the years,” Bo O’Kelley said.

Up until 2004, Northeastern Judicial Circuit Public Defender Brad Morris was in and out of federal court with O’Kelley. Morris remembered the man as an “old school” jurist.

“He believed in propriety. He believed in treating the court appropriately, as far as respect for the court and the institution of the court. He was very interested in lawyers … being very prepared and being thorough and making valid arguments,” Morris said.

O’Kelley’s son said he began not feeling well on the Memorial Day weekend and was moved into hospice Sunday.

“He got very weak very fast,” Bo O’Kelley said. “Cancer is a terrible beast. I don’t wish it on anybody.”

In 1980, O’Kelley was appointed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger.


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