When former Allen County Superior Judge William L. Briggs retired in 1998, he left a legacy not only as Allen County's first black judge, but also as a judicial officer with great passion for juvenile and family court.
Briggs, 80, died last Tuesday at Parkview Regional Medical Center.
“He was an excellent judge,” said Donald Doxsee, a local attorney who was on the nominating committee that recommended Briggs for the bench. “He really enjoyed the family division, in particular doing adoptions, which is one of the more pleasant parts of family law.”
When he decided not to seek another term, Briggs encouraged Allen County Superior Judge Charles Pratt to run for his seat. Pratt currently serves in the family division.
“I can't emphasize enough that I give great credit to (Briggs) for the career I've had,” Pratt said. “That would not have happened but for Judge Briggs' leadership, his confidence in me and his continual support.”
Beyond being known as Allen County's adoption expert, Pratt said Briggs approached working with families and children in a way that was innovative for its time. Many of the practices in Allen County's juvenile court system have roots in Briggs' leadership, Pratt said.
Briggs never cared much for the limelight, Pratt said, preferring results to attention. Even after retiring, Briggs didn't stop working. He was a senior judge, a position that allows retired jurists the opportunity to work periodically for the court, from 1999 to 2015.
“He was just an extraordinary individual and a true gentleman,” Pratt said. “He was what you would want in the nature and attitude of a judge.”