Federal judge who 'despised obituaries written by funeral home hacks' wrote his own

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Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Hugh Lawson Jr. of the Middle District of Georgia “despised obituaries written by funeral home hacks,” so he wrote his own. (Image from Shutterstock)

Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Hugh Lawson Jr. wanted to make sure that his obituary didn’t include trite phrases, such as a declaration that the memory of the deceased would be “forever treasured.” Anyone who wrote that “should be shot,” according to Lawson.

Lawson “despised obituaries written by funeral home hacks,” so he wrote his own, he explained in an obituary published after his death March 29 at age 82.

Law360 has the story on Lawson, a federal judge in the Middle District of Georgia, who had many interests outside the law, including fishing, camping and “piddling around on his farm.”

Lawson’s first experience as a judge was on a Georgia superior court in a district that included his hometown of Hawkinsville, Georgia.

He had once “entertained ambitions to be translated to the Supreme Court of Georgia,” the obituary said. “In this, he was spectacularly unsuccessful, but as is often the case, the cloud of this failure had a silver lining.”

Then-President Bill Clinton appointed him to the federal bench.

“Judge Lawson later acknowledged his debt to Gov. Zell Miller for thrice declining to appoint him to the supreme court.”

Lawson’s first job was in his father’s law office.

“To say that they had a good time together would be like describing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as a vocal group,” he wrote. “They handled anything that came through the door, except bankruptcy and tax matters. They worked hard, were unusually successful, abused tobacco, and (if they felt the occasion warranted) drank a good deal of whiskey. All in all, it was a great life.”

Lawson was “fond of quoting his father’s observation that there are only two things a man needs to know to keep women happy, but no one knows what they are.” He was married twice and had three children with his first wife.

“In 1977,” the obituary said, Lawson “discovered that Indiana was a hotbed of classy, high-octane, low-maintenance women, and on Dec. 25 of that year, he married Barbara Boots of Crawfordsville, who proved to be as advertised. She was a domestic paragon, a dedicated musician and the ideal wife. Her ebullient disposition, delight in domestic creativity and insistence on cleanliness and order resulted in a haven of tranquility, pleasure and repose for her husband and family. She brought as dowry three more small but loud and hyperactive children. Dowry notwithstanding, Judge Lawson said that as he had underwritten the expense of raising and educating all these children, they all belonged to him, and he loved them equally. In fact, he said, each was his favorite child.”

Lawson was an active member of the Hawkinsville First United Methodist Church, and he was a member of many clubs.

“He was a Mason, a Shriner, a Rotarian and a member of the Gridiron Secret Society,” the obituary said. “He enjoyed initiations.”

“Judge Lawson lived his life with few regrets,” the obituary said. “He admitted to frequent mistakes, paid for them and moved on having learned his lessons without dwelling on the tortures of hindsight. He conducted his affairs with the confidence of a Christian holding four aces.”

His last conscious thought was, “Barbara,” he wrote.

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