Godwin to retire after 18 years
By By LYDIA GRIMES Feature writer
After 18 years of serving as the District Attorney for the 21st Judicial Circuit, Mike Godwin will retire in the next few days. He is very proud of the job he and his co-workers have been able to do during these years.
"We have gotten a lot accomplished," he said, "not as much as we would like, but a lot."
Godwin took office in 1987, becoming only the second District Attorney to take office after the 21st Judicial District was created. He succeeded Wiley Henderson who had been in the position for 21 years.
The job of the district attorney, along with several assistant district attorneys, is to prosecute cases, which runs somewhere around a thousand cases a year. There are a lot of civil matters to attend to, such as legislation, child support, death threats, worthless checks, non-payment of child support, etc.
"I like to help people, even those who break the law," Godwin said. "I also like to be able to help victims and their families to let them know that the justice system works.
"I had several goals when I started, " he added. "I wanted to be able to unify the criminal justice in the county, collect worthless checks to help merchants recoup some of their losses, to do community work for first and young offenders and do something about the prisons in the county."
Some of the goals reached in the 18 years have been satisfying for Godwin, even with the funding shortage.
"We didn't know that the funding would be cut for so many projects," he said. "We still have been able to get funding for so many things that we needed. We sponsored a grant that put the Domestic Violence Unit in place and worked with Penelope House in Mobile to house those victims; a grant for the Drug Task Force; a child advocacy center and a way to help the youth and first-time offenders with their drug problems."
"We still have a problem with getting funding but the community has been great to step in and help us with some of the projects. I can't say enough about the cooperation of the local community. One of the things I would still like to see is more help with the juvenile court system. There is a need for some help for those who are 13, 14 and 15 years old with behavioral problems. I wanted to do something about that but just have not had time to spend on it as I wanted to."
One thing that Godwin stressed is the good cooperation among staff members to be able to handle all the work that comes into the office.
"They are some of the best," he said. "I can't handle everything myself, and don't need to. The other employees in the office are so good at what they do, it makes my job easier. We make mistakes, but they are always honest ones."
"Our door has been open to all," he added. "We have tried to be fair with everyone. We look at our role as not just prosecuting, but trying to help those who need the help. We can't put everybody in jail. Some intervention just might help get someone started on the right path to keep them out of prison."
Godwin was born in Century, Fla., and after the death of his father at a young age, and his mother's remarriage, the family moved to Brewton. He attended the Brewton City Schools and graduated from T.R. Miller High School in 1970. He was active in school, playing on the 1969 Championship football team. He worked during high school at Tom Neal's farm, for the City of Brewton on a road crew, at Robbins McGowin Clothing Store and umpired Little League games.
When he was a senior in high school, Broox Garrett Sr. and Police Chief Glenn Holt approached him about attending the University South Alabama on a criminal justice grant. He accepted and earned his bachelor's degree, doing a year's work for every year he received the grant. During this time he worked with the youth center and the detention center in Mobile. He also served as a probation officer in Brewton until 1979. He earned his master's degree in criminal justice from Troy State University and earned his law degree from Jones School of Law in Montgomery. In 1983 he joined his father-in-law's law firm, Otts and Moore, where he continued until he was elected district attorney.
Godwin married Harriett Otts in 1976 and they have three children, Elizabeth, Michael, and Mary. Both Michael and Mary are following in their father's footsteps to become attorneys.
"Who knows, maybe we will be in practice together one day," he said. "At least I won't be in office when they are ready to make that decision. If I stayed any longer, it would have taken a team of horses to get me out."
He plans to rejoin the firm of Otts, Moore and Coale after a couple of weeks of vacation, which he intends to spend in the woods for the rest of hunting season.
It is quite clear that Godwin does not intend to spend his retirement time doing nothing. In fact he will probably stay just as busy as before, but in different ways.