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‘It’s been the honor of my life’ — longtime chief magistrate judge retiring
Walker Bramblett
Longtime Chief Magistrate Judge Walker Bramblett recently announced his retirement. He was first elected to the seat in 2008. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

For the first time in more than a decade, the Forsyth County Magistrate Court will soon have a new leader. 

Chief Magistrate Judge Walker Bramblett, who was first elected to the seat in 2008, recently announced he will retire from the position on July 31. His replacement will be decided by judges of the Forsyth County Superior Court and will serve the remainder of his term before the election for the seat in 2024. 

“I want to thank the people of Forsyth County,” Bramblett said. “From the bottom of my heart, it’s been the honor of my life to serve as chief magistrate. I’m very grateful, and I always will be.”

A sixth-generation resident, Bramblett has served his entire professional career in Forsyth County, including operating his own private practice for 17 years, working as a staff attorney for the Forsyth County government and four years as a magistrate court judge before being elected as chief magistrate. 

“It was great,” Bramblett said of his time transitioning from a lawyer to a judge. “Those four years, I didn’t have to manage the place. All I had to do was try my cases. I spent a lot of time in court. I spent a lot of time learning the ropes of magistrate court and, frankly, how to be a judge.”

Bramblett said coming on during an economic recession meant a lot of building was needed for the court and he is happy with where it is today.

He recently sat down with 400 Life to answer a few questions about his tenure.

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Since you’ve announced your retirement, how do you feel about your term as chief magistrate?

“The chief magistrate is not only the chief judge, but also the chief clerk, so those are two big jobs under one umbrella.

“The judicial side needed to be built. When I was elected, we had two full-time magistrates and one part-time — really not enough. 

“It’s a 24/7 court. We have to have a judge on duty all night every night, all day every day, so after we got through the recession, which was my first challenge, we started building, and we were able to add several more judges. We were basically able to triple the size of the court as far as the judicial branch is concerned, and I enjoyed doing that.”

What has the support been like from the community?

“First of all, I would say that we were given every opportunity to succeed. The citizens have been behind us, the county government has financed what we needed to do, the bench has been behind us, superior court has been supportive and the bar has been tremendous, they’ve given us great support.

“With all of that support, we were able to do the building that needed to take place, and we’ve built it into a court with about 20 employees… I enjoyed getting there.”

What led to your decision to retire?

“This happened faster than I expected. Everyone wants to know, ‘Are you dying?’ I’m not. I don’t have any acute medical problems, anything urgent. I have chronic problems that stem from old injuries, and my walking has gotten much harder.

“That’s gotten worse faster than I’ve expected. I have an old shoulder injury that makes it hurt when I sign my name, and that has to be done dozens of times a day. These old nagging things are part of it. Those issues advanced faster than I expected.”

What’s next for you and the seat?

“Well, I’m going to ride off into the sunset. I’m going to go home and break all of the alarm clocks.

“This is another reason for my decision now, as opposed to later, the magistrate court is in good shape right now. We don’t have any crises going. The workload’s heavy, but it’s a good time for the chief magistrate to be proactive, to take all of this that we’ve built and make it more cohesive … In short, we need new energy in the job.”

As a sixth-generation Forsyth County resident, how does it feel to have been able to serve your hometown? 

“It has been wonderful. That’s all I ever wanted to do. 

“When I went off to law school, so many students were looking all over the country for all the hotspots to work, and it was hard for me to understand. All I wanted to do was come home and practice law. Forsyth County has always been my home, it’s always been my family’s home.”

Look for this story in the July 2021 edition of 400 Life magazine, which publishes on June 26