Judge John E. Enslen

Probate Judge of Elmore County

September 16, 2013

Regardless of her absence today, may I commence my remarks with an expression of sincere appreciation to Judge Maura Culberson for her dignified, tireless, and dedicated judicial work over an extended period of time.  She has diligently served the people of Elmore County as a knowledgeable and skillful district judge.  She leaves a lasting legacy of competence that erases the final vestiges of gender stereotyping.  The creative programs she has pioneered to solve complex problems will be a permanent tribute to her prior presence on the bench.

My wife Dianne and I have six children, three girls and three boys.  The three girls are Georgia Brown, Jessi Lou, and Jenny Sue, which is conclusive evidence they were not born in Michigan.

Georgia Brown, our oldest child, was attending college at Brigham Young University in the late 1980’s and was seriously dating a young man.  Dianne and I naturally had a great deal of trepidation about whom our oldest might marry.

Our level of concern was dramatically elevated when Georgia Brown told us that her boyfriend was from California.  Think surfer beach bum, strange flamboyant personalities, San Francisco subcultures, screwy appellate opinions, even Charles Manson.  That was the California we knew.

For the protection of our daughter, Dianne and I immediately sprung into action researching all available sources of information about this boy named Patrick Pinkston, and we did not have the benefit of Google.

We learned that he was born on Friday, October 14, 1966, in Mission Hills, California, and we would later learn that he was named for an uncle, his father’s oldest brother, who was an All-American tight end at UCLA.  We are a sports-minded family, especially college football, so that was good.

We were pleased to learn that Patrick had quarterbacked his high school football team in Bishop, California, to the state championship game in 1983.  We discovered he had already lettered in track at BYU.  We like young men who have learned the true meaning of sacrifice, determination, and team work on the field of play, so that was good.

But can you imagine our profound sense of relief when we discovered that Patrick had deep southern roots?  Patrick had ancestors who lived in Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina.  Both of Patrick’s grandfathers had migrated to California merely to pursue favorable economic opportunities.  So Patrick grew up eating black-eyed peas, turnip greens, and cornbread. And by the time we met him Georgia Brown had already taught him how to say “y’all” with three syllables, so that was good.

To shorten this story, Patrick and Georgia Brown were married in May of 1989.  That month our entire family traveled to Patrick’s hometown of Bishop, California.  His parents and extended family were outstanding human beings---- gracious, kind, generous, accommodating.  Would you please give a southern hospitality welcome to Dave and Kay Pinkston?

Patrick’s family lived on the mid-eastern side of California in a small picturesque town about the size of Wetumpka----located in a valley of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and famous for the world’s largest mule parade held every Memorial Day weekend.

I could easily discern that Patrick grew up just like the boys in Alabama, fishing and hunting at every opportunity---even before the school bell rang, swimming in the ponds, riding his bike wildly through the neighborhood, rolling in the green grass with his dog, and swinging from ropes tied to tall tree limbs.  Our post-nuptial comfort level with Patrick was still growing.

That summer Patrick and Georgia Brown lived in the back room of my and Parker Johnston’s law office, a converted gasoline station on the east side of South Main Street.  Patrick got his first taste of real estate law researching land records in the probate office.  He and Georgia Brown saved their money that summer to help pay college expenses for their junior year of college.  They also held part-time jobs during the school year.

Patrick and Georgia Brown both graduated from college in late July of 1991.  One week later, Georgia Brown gave birth to Thatcher Pinkston, who 18 years later would be selected for the Joe Sewell Award here in Elmore County.  I would like to introduce you to Patrick and Georgia Brown’s four children:  Thatcher, a sophomore in college; Audrey, an eleventh grader at Wetumpka High School; Emily, an eighth grader at Wetumpka Middle School; and Rhett, a second grader at Redland Elementary.

One week after Thatcher’s birth, Patrick entered Jones Law School.  He also went to work for Parker Johnston and me, putting in 30 hours a week.

Patrick qualified to practice law as a third-year intern and assumed a major portion of the work under our law firm’s public defender contract.  He regularly practiced before Judge Tommy Stowe, Judge John Bush, Judge Steve Drinkard, and later before Judge Sibley Reynolds.  Before he completed law school, Patrick had already won his first jury trial.

Patrick graduated from law school in 1994 and passed the bar exam on his first attempt.  On the same day he passed the bar, he completed a probate court hearing and then spent the weekend preparing for a criminal jury trial that was to take place the next Monday.  In reality, Patrick, a consistent over-achiever, has not slowed down since that day.

Patrick’s level of practical courtroom litigation experience during law school is truly remarkable and perhaps unmatched.  We have calculated, and Judge Stowe concurs, that Patrick tried in excess of 800 bench trials, plus two jury trials, and wrote two appellate briefs before he ever finished law school.

Practicing law with Patrick has been enjoyable for me.  Patrick is a team player.  In 2002 and 2003, one of the reasons I was fortunately able to defeat the Montgomery County Occupational Tax was Patrick’s willingness to handle much of my day-to-day office work.

During the 15 years that Patrick, Parker, and I worked together, Patrick was instrumental in helping us to select and supervise our outstanding associates which included Sam Partridge, Jeff Courtney, Kenny James, B. J. Lewis, and Brian Justiss.  Jeff Courtney became a partner.  Jeff, where are you?  You are now the last man standing in a law firm that originally began in 1983.

Patrick is not a political animal in the purest sense, but he has plenty of political savvy.  He is the person that first suggested to me that I should consider running for probate judge.  Sometimes I don’t know whether to hug him or slug him.  During my campaign last year, my chief political advisers were two of my sons-in-law, Patrick and Coach Troy Stubbs, plus their keenly observant wives.  Patrick’s advice proved to be invaluable to me.

Patrick is a man with a servant’s heart, and I am going to briefly demonstrate that fact with four episodes in his life.  Few, if any of you, have ever heard about these events because Patrick does not speak of them openly.

No. 1:  In 1979, a little three-year-old boy named John David Tyrell was visiting a family in Patrick’s neighborhood.  It was a cold day in the late fall, and the three-year-old had slipped unnoticed out the backdoor of the home where his parents were visiting on a Sunday afternoon.  Little John wandered off and fell into the deep end of a pond a short time before 12-year-old Patrick came riding into view on his new bicycle he had just purchased with the savings from a large number of odd jobs.

At first Patrick thought that he merely saw a diving duck making a splash in the water as it disappeared below the surface, but then he glimpsed what appeared to be a little human hand barely above surface.  He quickly hopped off his bike, ran to the pond, dove fully clothed into the cold water, swam to the spot where little John had disappeared, found him, and swam with him back to the edge of the pond.  He carried the coughing, crying wet child to the nearest home and knocked on the front door.  He then delivered the shivering little boy to the outstretched arms of a surprised set of parents standing in the doorway.  For his heroic efforts, the National President of the Boy Scouts of America awarded Patrick the Medal of Merit.

No. 2:  In 1986 at age 19, Patrick postponed his education, his career goals, his athletic pursuits, his dating adventures, and his otherwise demanding academic and social life in order to serve, at his own expense, a two-year foreign mission for his church.  He was sent to Spain and there learned to fluently speak the native language.  He was placed in a leadership position over 200 young fellow-American missionaries.  He had heavy responsibilities relating to orientation and training, arranging for travel, monitoring security and safety, and negotiating with local consulate officials regarding visas.  Patrick quickly matured beyond his years.

No. 3:  Episode number three is actually a series of episodes that will likely continue into the future.  During each of the following experiences, Patrick worked multiple days, slept in an on-site tent, and was self-contained with respect to food, water, fuel, equipment, and transportation.

In 1994, he worked three successive weekends assisting Flint River flood victims in Albany, Georgia, with the cleanup of their flooded residences, even continuing that work after accidentally puncturing his hand and being treated at a local hospital.  In 1995, with a 20-inch chainsaw in hand, he assisted Hurricane Opal victims in Pensacola; in 2004, he assisted Hurricane Ivan victims in Atmore; in 2005, he assisted Hurricane Katrinia victims in Wiggins, MS, including his partner Jeff Courtney’s parents; in 2011, he assisted tornado victims in Tuscaloosa and led a team of local men that put 11 temporary roofs on the damaged homes of 11 families in Elmore County.

Patrick knows firsthand that a man can be extremely happy serving others if he has his good health, a dependable used pickup truck, a quality chainsaw, and some large fallen trees perched against the residence of an unknown neighbor in need.

No. 4:  Since 2004, Patrick has worked with eight “at-risk” young men of single parent families in the Tuskegee area. For more than a year, he and his entire family traveled to Tuskegee on Sundays and on Wednesday nights to teach and encourage those young men.  So far to date, five of those young men have gone on to college; one of them will be getting married this year and is about to enter the Montgomery Police Academy; and all but one of them is now gainfully employed.

In addition to those 4 episodes that reveal a genuine servant’s heart, Patrick and Georgia Brown both share a loving commitment to working with our county’s youth.  By choice, Georgia Brown teaches at Elmore County’s Alternative Program, most often referred to as E-CAP.  Working alongside Andre Jackson, Monica Harrison, and the rest of the capable staff at E-CAP, they help troubled middle school and high school students get back on the right track.  Georgia Brown and Judge Pinkston will be working with some of the same students, jointly encouraging them to make better choices in order to secure a brighter future for themselves.

Patrick did not vigorously pursue this judgeship appointment until after he had personally talked with Judge Glenn Goggans and determined that he would be allowed to handle juvenile court matters. Patrick is deeply moved by come-back stories and he wants to make a difference.  In fact, he wants to make a difference badly enough that he is willing to take a substantial pay cut in his new job.

As Judge Maura Culberson has so competently done in the past, Judge Patrick Pinkston, along with Judge Glen Goggans, will be conducting the proceedings of a court that, numerically-speaking, directly affects the personal lives of more individual people than any other type of court in our state’s judicial system.

So let’s be realistic.  Because the demands far exceed the resources, and because neither the judicial system nor any other governmental agency or institution will ever be able to replace the role of a properly functioning traditional family, much of Patrick’s time will be spent administratively processing problem people in a crowded courtroom.  That, my friends, is reality.

But I can promise you that Patrick will feel a heavy moral obligation to help those occasional souls who are willing to be helped---those who are in the process of deciding that they no longer wish to learn so many of life’s lessons through sad, unlawful experiences.   Patrick will be devoted in heart, mind, body, and spirit to helping those children of God to become productive, contributing, successful, even happy, citizens in our communities.  That’s the Patrick I know.

In conclusion, Dianne and I have never been disappointed with Georgia Brown’s selection of a lifelong companion 24 years ago.  Patrick is much more than a lawyer or a judge.  He knows that his role as a husband and father are infinitely and eternally more important.  He knows that the greatest and most important work that any man or any woman will ever accomplish will be within the walls of his or her own home, and that no success outside of the home will ever fully compensate for our inattention to the inside of our home.  That foundational knowledge will serve Judge Pinkston well in his new position.

Thank you for your kind attention.  You have been a wonderful audience.  Helping you to know our new district judge a little better has been a special honor I will always remember.  God bless America.