Hundreds of friends and colleagues gathered at a reception Friday night in Fulton to honor Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton on his retirement.
During the reception, speakers lauded Hamilton not only for his exceptional legal skills but also his high standards of excellence he maintained during his long career as a prosecutor and judge.
Roger B. Wilson - who served as senator, lieutenant governor and briefly as governor after the death of former Gov. Mel Carnahan in office - said he has known Hamilton for many years. He said that if Hamilton says he'll do something, he does it. "Gene, you are one of those guys who has spent decades earning that reputation. We can never repay you for your services. You have protected our community, you have done what is right and fair. That is the absolute foundation of a democracy," Wilson said.
Callaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert R. Sterner said he learned how to be a prosecutor by watching Hamilton when he was prosecutor.
Sterner said as prosecutor he has awakened Hamilton many times to seek an arrest warrant in a criminal case. Sterner noted that not many people are aware that a judge is on call 24 hours a day. "After almost 40 years as prosecutor and as judge, the Gene Hamilton household has been on call literally thousands of nights to help protect the citizens of our community. That's a fantastic service that people don't know about," Sterner said.
Sterner will become an associate circuit court judge Jan. 1 if he is not appointed to replace Hamilton by the governor.
H.A. "Skip" Walther, president of the Missouri Bar Association, said because Hamilton was not as well known in Boone County, he wore out three pairs of shoes when he first campaigned for the job in 1982. "We were blessed with 28 years of excellent service by Judge Hamilton," Walther said.
William Ray Price, chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, noted that Hamilton served as chairman of the Missouri Supreme Court Committee for Procedures in Criminal Cases for 15 years. "He is responsible more than any other individual in the state for keeping our criminal law on track in Missouri," Price said.
Attorneys Thomas M. Dunlap and Joe Mosley, co-chairmen of the Hamilton Retirement Committee, presented a portrait of Hamilton that will hang in the Callaway County Circuit Court chambers. Hamilton plans to retire at the end of the month as Division 1 judge of the 13th Judicial Circuit, which includes Callaway and Boone counties. Division 1 handles civil and criminal cases. The circuit judge office will be vacant Oct. 1 if Gov. Jay Nixon does not appoint a replacement before Sept. 30. Hamilton was first elected to the court in 1982. Hamilton lives in Fulton with his wife Marcia. He is the father of three daughters.