Citizen of the Year Byrne credits ‘great people’ for success

Published 9:40 pm Monday, March 8, 2010

By by Kerry Whipple Bean

Marshall Craver has a distinct memory about his childhood best friend, Bradley Byrne.
Byrne’s father, Scotty, the county sheriff at the time, asked the 7-year-old boys to put their hands on the Bible so he could swear them in as “deputies.”
Craver said Byrne, even as a teenager, was “great athlete, student and even greater friend.”
A success on the football field at T.R. Miller High School, Byrne went on to play at the University of Southern Mississippi. He graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1979 and practiced law before being sworn in as one of the youngest circuit judges in the state in 1987. He has served on the bench ever since and is expected to run unopposed for the circuit judge seat again this year.
Along with his other legal achievements, Byrne was recognized last week for his work to establish the county’s drug court, which has become a model in the state for such programs.
Many of those who spoke about Byrne Tuesday night said he would likely be embarrassed at being the center of attention. Byrne himself credited the staff of drug court with the success of the program.
Byrne also said the reception to drug court in the city has helped its success.
The most rewarding aspect of drug court, Byrne said, is being able to see how it changes lives.
Participants in drug court must pass several phases — including treatment, counseling, job skills and other tasks — before they can move on to new phases and get to graduation. Any slips — such as a positive drug test — send them back to the beginning or even send them back to the beginning or even to jail.
But graduates often sing the praises of the system. One who was quoted Tuesday night said Byrne and drug court had made a huge difference.
For Craver, now an Episcopal priest, the chance to help honor his friend was “a privileged moment.”