Pamela Y. White-Colbert, a 1987 graduate of Mercer University School of Law, is used to being the first. The Macon native has recently taken on another historical title.
After being the first African-American woman to work in the local district attorney’s office and the first African-American woman to serve as president of the Macon Bar, White-Colbert became the first woman elected and sworn in as the Macon-Bibb Civil Magistrate, serving as Chief Judge.
She has served as an assistant district attorney prosecuting criminal cases for the past 30 years. Despite her commitment to this role, becoming a judge was always her main goal.
“From the beginning, I felt like being a judge was the ultimate act of public service,” she said.
White-Colbert went through the process of pursuing a judge seat two different ways.
“Either you can go through the appointment process or the election process,” she said. “Election means you have to wait for an open seat, but that comes every so often.”
For the appointment process, White-Colbert had at least two interviews with two governors. She also ran for office twice. How did it go the second time? “It went well. I won,” she said.
White-Colbert received her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia in 1984. She began law school at Mercer immediately afterwards.
She said Mercer Law requiring first-year students to stand up in class prepared her for important roles, like her current one, throughout her career.
“You can think on your feet at a very stressful moment,” she said. “We were able to say what we needed to say, and being a litigator, you have to be quick.”
White-Colbert also attributes the amount of research she did in law school to her success.
Her mentors are also Mercer Law alumni – Louis Sands, Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court Representing Middle Georgia, and Yvette Miller, judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals.
“One thing about a Mercer alum is that you’re able to call on them. I’ve been able to call on them throughout my entire legal career,” she said.
Out of her 30 years in the DA’s office, White-Colbert handled domestic violence for about 20 years.
“There was a lot of opportunity to train law enforcement, so I trained the Macon Police Department and traveled across the country with the Battered Women’s Justice Project and the American Prosecutors Research Institute.”
In her current role as judge, White-Colbert hopes to make sure her office is technologically advanced.
“I want to make sure we work with the sheriff’s department on expediting warrants and funds.”
White-Colbert’s advice to current Mercer law students is to be persistent and be patient, and also to have a dream and make a plan.
“Get involved in your local and state bar. Volunteer. It’s not all about law but giving back. We have knowledge that we can share with our community.”