Get to know Judge Verda Colvin, recently appointed to the Georgia Court of Appeals
By Meghan Lindstrom
In late March, Judge Verda Colvin became the first African-American woman to be appointed to the Georgia Court of Appeals by a Republican governor.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Colvin has lived in Macon since 1999. With a passion for serving others, Colvin previously served as Superior Court Judge of the Macon Judicial Circuit and as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. In her new role, Colvin will be commuting to Atlanta while continuing to reside in Macon.
Get to know this smart, determined woman in this brief QA.
Why did you want to practice law?
I wanted to save the world, in my own little way. My mom put me in a private religious school when I was very young, a Seventh-Day Adventist school in Atlanta. Because we had Bible class every day, I was keenly aware of the need to give back in a sense of service.
My two most inspiring people were Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King Jr. – because they were both selfless. They were all about service. It really didn’t matter about them personally, it was about moving a community, moving a people to a higher good. So, I just thought when I was a little girl, “I want to do that. I want to make a difference in the world. I want to help people. I want to make it better.”
What made you shift from practicing law to serving as a judge?
Well, it wasn’t me. It was, I guess, a calling. I have always been of the belief to be excellent and do a good job where you are. I feel like if you do that, then everything else falls into place. You get where you’re supposed to get. I don’t call myself religious, but I am deeply spiritual, and I believe that everybody has a path.
I remember I said a prayer in my office and I went to the window and looked out. All of sudden, it came to me like a knock on the head. During that time, I was teaching children’s church. I would tell them, “Fear is on one shoulder and faith is on the other and you’ve got to decide which one you’re going to choose every day. … When you feel yourself getting scared, just knock that off and remember to move in faith.”
I thought about that because really, my hesitancy was what if I don’t prevail, and I thought, “You’re operating out of fear.” So, I said, “Okay. I’m going to do this, but I’m not going to do any self-promoting.” I paid my own qualifying fee. My thought was that I want to pay to serve others because that’s how much this means to me. It wasn’t a choice that I made, I felt like it was a calling that God had for me and same for this new position I have on the Court of Appeals.
What do you find most rewarding about your career?
The thing that I find so rewarding about my career is I didn’t lose sight of why I was doing this. I think we all ought to have a “why” in anything we do that’s important to us. Without a why, sometimes life will navigate you instead of you navigating life. I’m proud that my career has always been able to keep that at the forefront because that’s why I do this – to serve.
What does it mean to you to become the first African-American female appointed to the Georgia Court of Appeals by a Republican governor?
Wow, we’re still doing firsts? I’m glad that there will no longer be a first; we’ve moved beyond that. We know the abilities, capabilities, the awesomeness of having African-American females in positions of power and authority. I’m glad we’re moving past the first because to me, that suggests that we’ll see more and more and it will just catapult. When we do that as a society, I think we will see how beneficial that is to allow everyone to have a seat at the table.
What can Macon do to help foster law careers for young African-American women?
Open up yourself and your businesses to giving a chance to people who are demographically different than those you currently work with. When you look around your space and you don’t see diversity, that should disturb you – no matter what profession it is. When you lack that diversity, you’re missing out on a whole segment of a community. Diversity extends beyond just advertising to a diverse community. Diversity means including that community within the scope of your work.
What advice do you have for other women looking to obtain a role in this field?
Pursue excellence. Run it down. Chase it. Grab it. Hold onto it and never let it go – no matter your circumstances. Be excellent at what you do and success will follow. That will get you where you need to be, and many times where you want to be, and sometimes, like in my cases, places that you never thought you would be. When you’re talking about being excellent, that transcends professions. Success will find you, even when you’re not looking for it. That’s especially true for women.
What keeps you up at night?
Pondering and wondering and asking God to show me what I can do to bring us all to a sense of concern for one another – not just talk about community, but be community-minded. I understand that we cross the gamut of thoughts and ideas, political events and what matters to us, but at the core level of humanity, there ought to always be a concern for everyone.
If we have empathy, not sympathy, I think of how much better our world could be. I recognize it could never be perfect. But at this point, with all that we’ve gone through as a society, as a nation, I feel like we should be in a better place. I want to do what I can to make that happen.
My mama taught me when I was growing up, “Every generation should do better than the previous generation, because if we don’t, then what was the purpose?” If I don’t do something to make things better than where I find them, then what was my point?
What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
The idea that today might be the day I can make a difference, that something I say or do might propel us a little bit further, a tiny bit further. I love people, so people are my passion. Whatever my work entails – dealing with people, asking their concerns – I’m passionate about it. Anything that involves encouraging, inspiring, elevating and just serving people inspires me. That gets me up; that gets me going.
Are you married? Do you have children?
Yes, I have two children. Weston Stroud is currently running for office. I guess my love to get involved and make a difference has rubbed off. I also have a daughter, Taylor Colvin, who is a rising senior at Mount de Sales Academy. I am married to Nathaniel Walker and he’s in management at Georgia Power. I also share two adult children, Nathlie Walker and Nathen Walker. Those are my children from my heart that I inherited when I married my husband.
What is your favorite thing to do in Macon?
I enjoy all of the green space we have, like Amerson Park and the river walk. I love those places and those spaces because they give me respite and a time to just come to terms with my thoughts and ideas. I can’t tell you how many great ideas I’ve had while running at the river walk. Everything that we do that’s outdoorsy reminds me of all the things that make Macon the place that I chose: community, family, that sense of comradery and togetherness that we share when we allow ourselves to go into that place and that space. For those reasons, I love it.
How do you balance the emotional heaviness that can come with being a judge?
Remembering my source. I recognize and accept the fact that I am divinely put in the posture that I’m in. Therefore, I have everything I need to be able to handle all that comes before me. When it becomes too much for my little mind to entail and I can’t remind myself of my divine placement, then I go out in nature and just remember it’s bigger than me. It’s bigger than everything I do and there’s purpose in everything that occurs. That keeps me grounded.
How can Middle Georgia do better to support our people?
I really want us to think about including people within our circles who are different in every conceivable way. It goes beyond race; it goes beyond political affiliation. I continue to believe that when we get to the point where our circle is extremely diverse, we can begin to truly hear each other. We can begin to work toward solutions that are inclusive of everyone.
Until we do that, we will continue to be at odds with ourselves, as a city, as a state, as a country. I think if we can ever get to that point, we could change the trajectory of where it appears we’re going. That’s a challenge I would like to make to our city, to our state, to our nation at large. Find a way to make that circle as diverse – economically, demographically, racially, culturally – as possible. When we do that, we show who we are in faith and ultimately, who we are as a nation. That is my dream – and it goes back to when I talked about who I admire the most. I think it was their dream, too.