The wryly smiling eyes of the late Judge Robert C. Goad now watch over the proceedings held in Amherst Circuit Court.
Goad sat on the bench from 1971 to 1991 and served as Nelson County Commonwealth’s Attorney before that. When he was elected to that position in 1947, he was the youngest to be elected in Virginia at the age of 23.
A cohort of Goad’s friends and colleagues gathered Saturday to talk about his legacy and watch as his portrait was unveiled in the Amherst Circuit Court room — the first to hang on the walls there.
For some of the judges present, including Amherst Circuit Court Judge Michael Garrett, Goad was on the bench while they were cutting their teeth in the courtroom and gave them guidance along the way.
Garrett recalled representing a defendant in a murder case as a freshly minted lawyer and Goad gently and politely gauging whether he was ready to try the case.
“Your first years as a lawyer, it sort of just gets drilled into your head: you’ve got to be on time, you’ve got to do these things right,” he said. “He was helping you learn.”
The portrait unveiled Saturday is a replica of one that hangs in the Nelson County courthouse alongside many of his fellows over the years — the Amherst-Nelson Bar Association paid to have a copy made for Amherst County. Another hangs in Waynesboro, where he sat as judge before the 24th Judicial District was drawn to exclude the city and Goad shifted to sitting in Amherst and Nelson counties.
“I didn’t realize how much the portraits meant to me until I stopped sitting in Nelson a couple times a week,” Garrett told those assembled Saturday.
Retired Judge Michael Gamble, who presided in Amherst and Nelson for 24 years, recalled growing up near the Goad family, his care as a father and punctuality.
“He certainly was a person of great legal ability and intellect, but what made him a great judge was his courtesy and his temperament,” he said.
Robert “Buzz” Goad Jr., flanked by other members of his family, thanked those present for their kind words. As a testament to the respect for his father and the close-knit community in Nelson, he recalled people visiting the house on weekends to bounce a legal situation off of him.
“The people really looked at him as a resource and somebody that would treat them fairly in court; that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
Reach Mahoney at (434) 385-5554.