Judge Sport retires, opens law practice

Published 11:46 pm Thursday, May 16, 2024

By Lanell Downs Smith

After almost 21 years serving Crenshaw County as District Judge, Thomas Sport is retiring. The change of position, however, is simply a change of venue for the man committed to making a difference and helping people set their course on the right path.

Sport celebrated his retirement with a ceremony held at the Crenshaw County Courthouse April 30. Retirement had been in his sights for the past year, he said, and the event brought a close to just one chapter of his professional life.

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“I started thinking about [retirement] last year,” Sport said. “I decided it was time to do something different.”

Sport is a native of Luverne and graduated from Luverne School in 1981 before earning his Bachelor of Science in biology at Troy University and his Juris Doctorate degree from Jones school of law. He became District Judge on Oct. 1 2003. 

Since then, he has worked to make a difference in the lives of those who come before his bench for adjudication, especially young men and women who need help steadying the course of their lives.

“Working with juveniles is probably the most frustrating and rewarding thing I tried to do,” Sport recalled. “Some of the kids, especially the ones who come through DHR (Department of Human Resources), they can’t help the hand they were dealt.

“You try to encourage them, to show them there’s a better life and that what they see at home is not normal. And you hope maybe you can inspire them to do a little bit better than what they have seen from their parents. Other kids, who get into trouble as delinquents, you try to encourage them and get them on the right path. Most of them get on the right path, but you always have those few who don’t.”

Reflecting on his work as a district judge, Sport said witnessing positive outcomes for the young people who come through juvenile court was the most rewarding part of the job.

“One of the things I really like about the job is when I see a juvenile who I have not worked with in five or six years,” Sport said. “When they stop by the office just to let us know what they decided to do with their life, that’s always neat. When they come in and show they are living a productive life, I really enjoyed that.”

During his years on the bench, Sport worked to help people who came to court, whether it be for something simple, like a speeding ticket, or a complicated issue of child support.

“As a judge, you can mentor and administer justice, but I think you have got to do it with mercy and some empathy and compassion,” Sport said. “And, I hope I did that. Over the years, I certainly tried.”

For the next steps on his professional journey, “something different” for Sport means the opening of a private practice law firm. In June, he will open the doors to his office, on the corner and across the street from Assistant District Attorney Levi Nichols, and focusing on a general law practice.

“Being that this is a small county and small town, I’m going to practice general law and focus on pretty much [whatever is needed],” Sport said. “I’m not going to do contested divorces. I would like to be involved in some criminal cases involving juveniles or adults. I think some people, they just made bad choices and are not necessarily bad people.”

Helping people caught on the wrong side of justice make a change for the better is something Sport said he looks forward to accomplishing, this time from the other side of the bench.

“I learned as a judge that sometimes people need second chances,” Sport said. “I believe in second chances and for some people, I have more chances than that because you can see them working, trying to achieve something and get where they need to be. I just think sometimes we have a system that prevents them from doing that. I like to try to help those folks get on their feet and become good members of society.”

Thomas and his wife Beverly Sport have two grandchildren and in retirement he plans to have more time to spend with them. He also hopes to work on his classic 1961 Chevrolet truck.

Beverly, who knows him better than anyone, remarked on his compassion, empathy and genuine concern for others.

“[Tom]  is known for his compassion, empathy, and genuine concern for the well-being of those he served,” she said. “His courtroom demeanor reflected his commitment to treating all individuals with dignity and respect, ensuring that justice was not only served but also felt. His legacy extends beyond the courtroom, as he has been actively involved in numerous community initiatives and charitable endeavors, enriching the lives of countless individuals.”

Sport hopes to open the doors of his private practice within the first weeks of June. District Judge Appointee Jon M. Folmar will be sworn in at a ceremony Friday, May 17 in the main courtroom at the Crenshaw County Courthouse beginning at 3 p.m.