Nathan Pride Sworn in as 26th Judicial Circuit's First Black Judge

September 7, 2012

From The Jackson Sun
By:  Ned B. Hunter

His son held open the black robe of the 26th Judicial Circuit Court, as Nathan Blake Pride slipped first his right arm and then his left through the sleeves to officially become the district’s first black judge.

Pride was elected to the bench on Aug. 2, defeating five others for the position. On Tuesday, he was sworn into office by Judge Roger Page just after 10 a.m. inside the second-floor courtroom of the J. Alexander Leech Criminal Justice Center. With his right hand held high, Pride finished his judicial oath with a firm “I do,” and the crowd of more than 100 judges, family members, friends, mentors and supporters erupted into cheers, head nods and energetic applause.

“Thank you, Lord!” one audience member yelled.

Pride won the seat that oversees Division III of Tennessee’s 26th District by 941 votes. The district is made up of Chester, Henderson and Madison counties. Pride will fill the last two years of an eight-year term originally won by Page, who was appointed to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Jackson attorney Terica Smith called Tuesday “an historic day.” Smith works with the West Tennessee Legal Services. She has known Pride since elementary school. They attend the same church.

While Smith said Pride’s heritage makes his election to the bench important to her and other members of the black community, his character is more important. She called him a man of integrity, a leader in the community, a mentor and a motivator.

Smith said it was Pride who told her she could accomplish her dreams of becoming an attorney. More importantly, she said, Pride is a man who leads by example; his greatest example, she said, was never giving up. Being black made Pride’s persistence for success an even greater lesson, she said.

“The two go together,” she said. “When the odds were stacked against him, like they were in this community, he never gave up. He never quit.”

Pride’s son, Jonathan, said his father has always worked as a servant to the people. The judgeship, he said, is merely the culmination of his father’s past labors to better everyone’s lives.

“I have seen my father pick up a shovel to help people in need,” said Jonathan Pride, who lives in Nashville and serves on several boards, “and then go to work in a tie.”

Pride’s preparation for his new position came in the form of establishing many firsts for himself and his community. Former Mayor Charles Farmer hired Pride as Jackson’s first black city attorney. Pride later became the district’s first black public defender when he was hired by District Attorney Jerry Woodall in 1993. On Tuesday, Pride acknowledged the importance and pressure of being the first black person to wear the robes of the 26th Judicial District.

“I have to be mindful that I represent the hopes and dreams of a lot of people who felt disenfranchised for a long time in this community,” he said, “and were.”

But Pride also is aware that he is a judge, entrusted with a position of impartiality to all who come before his bench.

“This court belongs to the people of the 26th District,” he said.

He acknowledged the mental pressure and spiritual weight that come with his position, stating that the court was already jammed with cases waiting to be heard.

“Please continue to pray for me and all judges,” he implored his audience, “because this job is bigger than you can imagine.”

Jonathan Pride said his father is ready for the challenge.

“I have no doubt my father will do a good job,” he said. “Not because he is African American, but because he is prepared.”