The new District Attorney for the Ocmulgee Circuit was sworn in last week and officially took office Jan. 1.
T. Wright Barksdale III took his oath of office Dec. 30, 2020, in the main courtroom of the Jones County Courthouse in front of a small group of colleagues, family and friends. The ceremony was also live streamed for public view. The oath was administered by Superior Court Judge Brenda Trammell.
Barksdale won the Nov. 3 election by an impressive margin and officially took office Jan. 1. It has been 26 years since Jones County was the home of the District Attorney for the Ocmulgee Circuit that covers the counties of Jones, Baldwin, Greene, Hancock, Morgan, Putnam and Wilkinson. It is the largest circuit in the state.
Before getting down to the serious business of the day, Trammell recalled watching the new District Attorney when he started as an assistant district attorney in Jones County and working with him when he took over the office in Putnam County.
Her observations of Barksdale when he was first on the job was that he was a hard worker, liked to get to the bottom of the case and was teachable.
Barksdale began his career as an assistant district attorney in the Ocmulgee Circuit in Jones County in 2013 and he moved his family to Gray in 2014. He and his wife Katie have three children. He took over the duties of prosecutor in Putnam County in 2015 and has handled both Putnam and Hancock Counties since 2017.
The District Attorney is originally from Washington County and is a graduate of Georgia Southern and Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School. He interned at the Baldwin and Fulton County solicitors offices and was hired as an assistant district attorney by the Paulding Judicial Circuit. When the opportunity presented itself, he said he chose to work in Jones County because it was closer to home.
Barksdale’s pastor, Randy Darnell, opened the ceremony in prayer.
It is customary for colleagues to impart ‘words of wisdom’ on new court officers. Former District Attorney Stephen Bradley was the first to speak. He started by expressing his pride in the young District Attorney.
“You will be an excellent DA. I trust you with the safety of the people of the Ocmulgee Circuit,” he said.
Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills noted the power of the office of District Attorney.
“I know you will do the right thing,” he said.
Jones County Sheriff Butch Reece said he had seen a lot of justice in the courtroom and some political injustice in past years.
“Justice needs to go on without partiality. You are the man, you’re going to do that,” he said.
At the conclusion of those remarks, Trammell gave Barksdale the oath of office, with the Bible held by his wife and surrounded by his children.
The newly sworn District Attorney then spoke to those in attendance. He recalled receiving a phone call while traveling down Highway 129 on his way home Jan. 8, 2020.
“The phone call from Sheriff Sills was not unusual, but it would change my life,” he said.
Barksdale said Sills gave him the news about Chief Superior Court Judge William Prior’s decision not to run for reelection and that Bradley had decided to run for the judge position.
“Now is the time,” Barksdale said he was told by Sills. “This has been one heck of a year.”
He stated his appreciation for all law enforcement.
“The community only sees a little of what you do,” Barksdale said. “Know the DA’s office is with you and is going to follow the evidence.”
He also spoke to the legal community.
“I thank you for your support. We will work together to help justice move along,” he said.
Barksdale said he knew he could not thank everyone individually, but he wanted to thank all who supported him. He said, over Christmas, he reflected about how he got to this point.
He said he remembered watching his father and grandfather serve food to citizens who needed help, as well as his mother, who was a social worker, helping the special needs community.
“I thank God for my family who always stressed the importance of serving the community. I’m so proud to be a part of Middle Georgia and can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be,” he said.
Barksdale said he was raised in the church, but he was not a perfect man, husband or father.
“I will not be a perfect DA, but to the citizens, this is your office. You have entrusted it to me. I’m going to make sure to keep it between the lines,” he said. “This office will be transparent and fair to all, rich or poor; no matter to color.”