ELIZABETHTOWN — Family, friends and colleagues gathered in Bladen County Superior Court on Friday afternoon to watch and lend support as Assistant District Attorney Ebern “Tripp” Watson III was sworn in as a special Superior Court judge.
Watson replaces Special Superior Court Judge Jack Hooks, whose commission has expired.
Watson was visibly overwhelmed at first by the occassion, but quickly focused on thanking those in attendance. He noted that, growing up, he would often visit Bladen County when he came hunting and fishing and visiting White Lake. He added that he has always enjoyed Bladen County.
He read a passage to the audience from “The Book of Man” that was gift to him from District Attorney Jon David. The book was presented to Watson when he joined the Bladen County District Attorney’s Office.
“I’ve worked with some good people and I feel like I have helped some folks,” said Watson.
He described a conversation he had about being asked what it meant to him to be a judge. Watson said he thought about that question a lot and then he said, “there are many answers.”
He added that “it means trusting your instincts, never forgetting who you are and where you came from. Remembering there is no debate or consensus and there are no poll takers or advisers. All decisions the judge makes, he makes them alone.”
In his remarks, David said, “There are a lot of reasons he became a judge … He has earned the right to be called judge. He has earned the respect to the law enforcement officers …”
David said Watson is a skilled attorney and has a tireless work ethic.
David presented a plaque to Watson. The plaque has his retired badge and the inscription “To whom much is given, much is expected.” David said that the inscription was a most apt description of Watson and his work ethic.
Goldston Womble, Bladen County Bar Association member, said that Watson treated folks fairly.
“He had the desire and ability to look at each case on its own and make a decision,” said Womble. “He was not into cookie-cutter justice. I believe Tripp has been successful in bringing a good dose of humanity to his job.”
Watson received his undergraduate degree from Appalachian State University in Boone and he earned his juris doctorate from Vermont Law School. Watson spent several years in private practice in Wilmington and, prior to that, worked in the Duplin County District Attorney’s Office for District Attorney Dewey Hudson.
Watson is originally from Rose Hill and grew up in Duplin County.
He was joined for the occassion by his parents and Robin Ratcliff.