It was a somber day at the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center Tuesday. Flags outside the building were lowered to half-staff to pay tribute to longtime Cherokee Judicial Circuit Judge George Carey Nelson III, who died Monday evening at age 71.
“Judge Nelson passed yesterday afternoon, and we’re all sort of in shock about that,” Georgia Superior Court Senior Judge Shepherd L. Howell began his proceedings in Bartow Superior Court. “He served the courts since January 2002, so he was officially a judge for 17 years, that’s a long time. A lot of folks got used to him and he’s going to be greatly missed … but we’ll continue with business the best we can, under the circumstances.”
Howell, who retired from the Cherokee Judicial Circuit roughly five years ago, worked alongside Nelson for many years. He is one of several senior judges who filled in for Nelson during his battle with illness.
Other Bartow Superior Court judges began their Tuesday proceedings with a moment of silence honoring Nelson for his decades of service.
“It was tearful for all attorneys and staff involved,” said Bartow County Clerk of Superior Court Melba Scoggins. “Judge Nelson was truly a servant of Bartow County.”
She recalled Nelson as a man deeply committed to his community, family and colleagues.
“I have known Judge Nelson for over 35 years,” she said. “In that time, he’s been a friend, a co-worker, and most of all, a mentor to me.”
Nelson served in active duty in the United States Navy from 1970 to 1973. He graduated from the Stetson University College of Law in 1976.
Prior to becoming a judge who presided over courtrooms in both Bartow and Gordon counties, Nelson was a prominent Cartersville attorney who worked throughout the community for decades. He founded his first private practice in 1977 and was a founding partner of the Nelson and Bradley law firm in 1981.
He also served as the attorney for Bartow County for 21 years.
“He was heavily involved with Clarence Brown’s administration and doing so many of the good things that the County did, and Frank Moore before him,” said Bartow County Administrator Peter Olson, who, like Scoggins, referred to Nelson as a mentor. “He had a big influence on the development of ordinances and the systems in place of Bartow County.”
Prior to being appointed to the superior court judge position by Gov. Roy Barnes in 2001, Nelson also served as a local juvenile court judge.
Nelson’s surviving family will receive visitors at Owen Funeral Home, 12 Collins Drive in Cartersville, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. A celebration of life service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church, 183 West Main St. in Cartersville. He will be interred at Euharlee Presbyterian Cemetery, where both his mother and father, George Carey Nelson, Jr. and Malline Busby Nelson, are buried.
“It’s a great loss for the community,” said Olson, who will serve as one of Nelson’s pallbearers. “He was honorable, he was fair-minded — he was a great asset to Bartow County, bench and bar, and he’s going to be sorely missed.”