TYLER, TX (KLTV) - He ruled by the law changing the judicial landscape of Texas when the majority of Texans resisted change. That's why the people who knew him best call Judge William Justice the epitome of justice.
"I respected him more than any other person I've ever known in my life," said Debbie Magee, Justice's longtime secretary.
Magee says Judge Justice was one of the most caring and compassionate human beings she has ever known. Not knowing it was their last encounter, she paid him a visit last month in Austin.
"This was a man that put his own personal feeling aside and had the courage to do what was right," said Magee.
Justice was born and raised in Athens. His father was a lawyer, and, when he grew older...
"His father had his name on the letterhead when he was seven-years-old," said Magee. "It's not like he had a big choice of what he was going to do with his life."
She remembers attending Robert E. Lee High in the 70's when Justice ruled to desegregate Texas public schools.
"Civil rights has never been anything the folks of East Texas embraced," said Magee.
He also forced Robert E. Lee to change their mascot from the Rebels to the Red Raiders, and removed all symbols of the confederate flag.
"[I] didn't hear anything positive about Judge Justice when I was in high school," said Magee.
But, she quickly learned years later as his secretary for nearly a decade that popularity was an unfair judge of character.
"To me, the most passionate case, and I think it was judge's most passionate case, was Doe v. Plyer, where he gave children of illegal aliens the right to attend public school," said Magee. "The United States Supreme Court agreed with him."
Magee says she'll miss her mentor...her friend.
"I hope they know that he was a kind loving, compassionate man that believed in justice for all," said Magee.
Services for Judge William Wayne Justice are set for Monday at St. David's Episcopal Church in Austin.