Circuit Judge honored with 2023 Judicial Award of Merit

Published 1:52 pm Wednesday, October 18, 2023

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On Oct.12, judges and attorneys from across Alabama gathered at the Coplin Building in Demopolis to celebrate the Hon. Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway, Jr. Hardaway was awarded with the Judicial Award of Merit. This award is presented to a judge who is not retired, whether state or federal court, trial or appellate, and is determined to have contributed significantly to the administration of justice in Alabama.

Hardaway is the longest serving circuit judge in Alabama and has been in the position for 28 years. Tom Perry, President Elect of the Alabama State Bar, presented a brief speech about how he met Hardaway and how he is a fair judge who respects those around him.

“If you don’t act like a fool in his courtroom, you come in prepared, and you don’t lie to him, you’ll get a fair shake. We don’t always love his decisions, but you don’t wonder what went on behind the scenes. He is a fair and honest judge and is the example of what a judge should be,” said Perry. “We are a lucky bar to have had Judge Hardaway as our leader and our judge for twenty-eight years.”

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Perry also said Hardaway will allow someone to try their case, and will be fair and straight.

“The biggest defense firms in Birmingham will tell you ‘“Eddie Hardaway lets us try our case.”’ The smallest, plainest lawyers in the country will say ‘“Judge Hardaway lets us try our case.” Folks, we are honored and lucky to have had him for twenty-eight years, and thank God we have him for another year,” said Perry. “I would bet if he could run again, anybody here would walk the streets for Eddie Hardaway, Jr because he has earned our respect, and has treated us wonderfully all these years.”

Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway, Jr. with Monica Grecu, President of the 17th Judicial Circuit for Alabama. Photo by Andrea Burroughs.

The President of the 17th Judicial Circuit for Alabama, Monica Grecu, spoke after Perry and remarked on how patient Hardaway was with her when she was just starting out in her career.

“Working with Mr. Simmons and being in front of Judge Hardaway really showed me what kind of man he is. He was so patient and so kind,” said Grecu. “Judge Hardaway was patient with the newbie. I was so nervous, but I will never forget how gracious he was to me.”

Grecu also said there are more than 355 judges in Alabama and Hardaway was number one out of those judges.

Hardaway was educated in the Sumter County Public School System and graduated Salutatorian from Livingston High School in 1971. He continued his studies at University of Alabama School of Law and graduated in 1977. 

After graduation, Hardaway took a position with the Attorney General’s Office of the State of Alabama. Later, in December of 1978, he left the Attorney General’s Office to become a Staff Attorney for Legal Services in Selma, Alabama. Then in 1980, Hardaway returned to Sumter County and became a partner in England, Bivens, and Hardaway in York, Alabama.

Also in 1980, Hardaway decided to run for public office, and in November of that year, he became the first African American District Court Judge in Sumter County, Alabama. Judge Hardaway was re-elected to this position twice before being elected the first African American Presiding Circuit Court Judge in the 17th Judicial Circuit of Alabama in November of 1994. Hardaway has been re- elected to this position four times and is currently one of the longest serving judges in the state of Alabama.

Hardaway currently serves as the Chairman of the Sumter County Industrial Development Authority and as the Chairman of the Alabama New South Coalition-Sumter County Chapter. In addition to being one of the most dedicated public servants in modern times, Hardaway is a prolific businessman. He is the President and Founder of Hardaway’s Funeral Services, Inc. in York, Alabama.

Hardaway married his wife, Lena Bonner, in 1980. They have one son named Robert Hardaway. Judge Hardaway has one older son, Eddie Hardaway, Jr.,from his first marriage, and acts as a father to his eldest nephew Linwood Bonner.

Others in attendance included District Attorney Greg Griggers, District Judge Vince Deas, Attorney Woody Dinning, Jr, Tom Perry, and Sharon Stuart, President Elect of the Birmingham Bar and President of Attorneys Insurance Mutual of the South.