Colleagues bid Judge Houston well during retirement ceremony

RAY VAN DUSEN/MONROE JOURNALPORTRAIT OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS – Clarksdale artist Jason Bouldin, left, watches the reaction of Debi and Judge David Houston III upon the unveiling ceremony of a portrait of the retiring U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge.

PORTRAIT OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS – Clarksdale artist Jason Bouldin, left, watches the reaction of Debi and Judge David Houston III upon the unveiling ceremony of a portrait of the retiring U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge.

ABERDEEN – The words were kind and the emotions mixed with laughter and tears were sincere in two packed courtrooms at the United States Bankruptcy Court as judges, family, friends and dignitaries recognized Judge David Houston III.
After three decades on the bench, Houston was honored last Tuesday, Dec. 18, with the presentation of a portrait and retirement ceremony.
“It seems like only a few weeks ago when I was working a case with Judge L.T. Senter when he asked if I would be interested in being the next bankruptcy judge. It’s hard to believe it occurred in the spring of 1983. I’m going to miss this job, but I’ll be around. I’ll treasure this experience more than you will ever know,” Houston said.
Following in a family tradition of practicing law, Houston was among a class of attorneys acting as mentors to the younger generations.
“When I came to Aberdeen in the early 80s, I heard of Big David, Dick Booth, L.T. Senter and Little David as he was known then. Those men established a legacy of what we hold our standards to today,” said the Honorable Mike Mills, chief judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi.
In the presence of robed colleagues from as far away as New Jersey, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and Texas, judges representing several different court systems spoke of experiences shared with Houston.
“I’m honored to say a few words on this bittersweet occasion. As we’ve served together on the bankruptcy court’s budgetary committee, we’ve gotten to know each other. When I try to sum up David Houston, common sense, good judgment and effective communication comes to mind. He’s the essence of a kind person who people are glad to see coming,” said the Honorable Julia Smith Gibbons, judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.
The list of Houston’s accomplishments mentioned during his retirement ceremony were just the tip of his professional iceberg.
“If he ran a successful courtroom alone, we’d still have so much reason to be here today, but his career is far more complex. If we had an hour, we still couldn’t name all the committees he’s served on,” said the Honorable Edward Ellingon, chief judge with the United States Bankruptcy Court’s Southern District of Mississippi.
Billy Canty, a staff member of the office of Sen. Thad Cochran shared words from the senator, who missed the ceremony due to obligations in Washington, D.C. regarding the pressing situation of the nation’s budget.
“As you know my work is in Washington, but my heart and home is in Mississippi. The two of us go way back years together. This courthouse is a lasting legacy of your years in the judicial system,” the letter read.
Mississippi-born, Harvard-educated artist Jason Bouldin explained his approach to capturing the real Judge David Houston III in the life-size portrait to be hung in the courtroom.
“The first task is to show something of the office, but equally important something that animates that office. You will see him standing in a comfortable position with a pen and pad in his hand, which represents even in this age of technology, he still likes to take notes. If we look at the robe, it’s unzipped so we can see the person who animates the robe. A red and blue tie shows his allegiance to the University of Mississippi. You can see a wedding ring that shows his ties beyond the court.
“They’re all supporting roles to the face. I hope you see someone approachable. In the process of painting this portrait, I was able to witness someone full of respect for the law to be served and the parties in front of him. I think they’re hallmarks of him,” said Bouldin, who has been recognized as 20 influential artists on the rise and has works hanging at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several courthouses across the nation.
The Clarksdale-native began his formal art training under his father, Marshall.
“My family has witnessed many nights when I was at work at the kitchen table and working through the weekends and I thank them for their patience,” Houston said.
Houston’s successor is Jason Woodard of Birmingham, Ala., who will begin work in the following weeks.

About Ray Van Dusen

I've been with the Monroe Journal since Aug. 2009 as a staff writer, but took the role as news editor in late 2012. I'm always looking for interesting story ideas from around Monroe County. You can reach me via email at