By Natalie Fultz
COLUMBUS, GA - He's spent the past 26 years wearing his black robe...providing justice for various criminal and civil cases from his bench.
But once upon a time, Judge John Allen was living in the projects.
"I didn't know it was subsidized housing. It was just a place to live. It was home in other words. It was nothing hard about the life at least in my mind. It was just the way of life, and what I had to deal with you know to get to the next step," Judge Allen says.
He managed to overcome poverty saying 'education and drive were key' to his success, but one day on the stand he came in contact with a man who lived in his the same apartment as him at Booker T. Washington apartments.
"A young man was charged with murder in fact. On the stand he was asked where he lived, he said, '512 BTW apartments,' and that just hit me. Here was a guy that lived in the same apartment that I did, and here he is being sentenced by me. My life is where it is now, and his is where his is," Judge Allen says.
Judge Allen was one of seven children. He fought in the Vietnam War as a fighter pilot, and he joined Bobby Peters in the first integrated law firm in Muscogee County. All while African Americans were still fighting for equal rights.
"You didn't get the same dignity that whites got in court. You know, 'Oh my god, we got a black. He's bound to be a liberal and turn all the criminals loose. We have to lock our doors.' Not that that was a widespread openly expressed notion, but you could hear those mumbling's," Judge Allen says.
Now Judge Allen doesn't hear those mumbling's, instead he prepares to start a new journey as a senior judge, but before he leaves he wants to see his shoes filled by a specific candidate.
"Judges bring to the bench the sum total of their life experiences. They make decisions on the bench that are influenced by their life experiences. It would be unrealistic to think that the life experiences of all middle class white males reflects the entire community. There are as many qualified women and blacks as their are white," Judge Allen says.
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