EULOGY TO JUDGE MARC WESTBROOK
September 18, 2005
Marc, we’re all assembled here at your beloved Springdale Baptist Church. We cannot understand what has happened. We are struggling with our faith to accept what has happened.
In our mind’s eye we see you now. You’re at the Lord’s right hand, the first among equals in a band of angels. You’ve already reorganized the heavenly choir and taken care of the backlog in the heavenly courts. You’ve already lobbied St. Peter to liven up the heavenly banquet with some items from Monterrey’s, and you’re looking down on us with that quizzical little half smile – the Marc Westbrook trademark – saying “I see, I see.” And you’re wondering why we’re all so mournful and sad when you are in perfect happiness and ecstasy as you prepare a place for us. Marc, we can’t understand. Help us accept God’s will.
Marc’s approach to people was uncomplicated and open. His friendship was as comfortable as an old shoe, but Marc’s private heart was deeply reflective; his intellect was sharpened by years of hard work, and his spiritual life was deep and rich.
Marc adored his sweetheart and life partner, Linda. She is the gentle and solid rock upon which Marc built his entire adult life. His sons, Thad and Richard, were his everything. He lived for their company and that of their sweethearts, Christy and Ansley. His beautiful granddaughter Abby was the light of his life. You bet, I got a call from Marc the first time she said “a-daddy.”
He loved his mother and father, Nink and Herb, and brothers and sisters dearly – Charles, Neal, Anna, and Dottie. He was determined not to have a “move around” family. The roots he sank deep in this community made Linda and Marc’s place on Cedar Lane home base for all Westbrooks.
He always corrected anyone who made jokes about their in-laws. He expressed how blessed he was, particularly by his mother in law, Mrs. Lawhon.
Marc loved his friends who overflow this place today. Tim Driggers was there from the beginning. He trusted Tim as no other. Tim knew all about his quirky sense of humor. Y’all know Marc was legendary about running out of gas, and he always called Driggers to bail him out. My favorite picture of Driggers and Westbrook was when Holtz and the Gamecocks beat Georgia – Driggers and Westbrook were right there with the true Carolina nuts tearing down the goal posts.
Marc’s love for his Gamecocks is legendary. Although Lexington County’s colors are blue and gold, you’ll notice that the county seal in front of the new courthouse is garnet. I wonder who might have done that?
On Gamecock Central last Friday, people were calling in with tributes to Marc. My favorite was a guy who said, “I’ve been sitting near him at football games for years, and I never knew he was a judge.”
The only thing that always came before a Carolina basketball game was Wednesday night at this church. He loved this church, its people, its music, its ministry. Tommy McGill, the pastor here, was a blessing in Marc’s life. Tommy, the lawyer who answered the call to ministry, and Marc, the seminary school student who accepted the vocation of lawyer because he felt his talents could help people best in this career. Tommy was Marc’s brother of the soul.
Marc loved this county and became over time the wise counselor to everyone: Senator Knotts and Senator Setzler, Solicitor Myers, Chairman Jeffcoat and many others. The new courthouse is a tribute to his powers of gentle persuasion and great respect he held. (even by those who don’t want to spend money!)
He loved his chambers family. His law clerks were like his children. His secretary Patsy and his court reporter Coconut were his professional family. He doted on their careers and personal lives, rejoiced in their success and helped each through adversity.
He loved the men and women of South Carolina with whom he wore the black robe. Judges were his special friends and confidants. His company and his counsel were widely sought.
I saved the toughest assignments for my old friend Marc. He never said: “This one’s too hot to handle, this one’s too tough.” His only stipulation: I have to be home in time for the boys’ little league, football, basketball, you name it. In my mind’s eye – I see Marc coaching those Midlands baseball games. He’d skate in from court just in time. Marc wasn’t a screamer, he was a real teacher. I like remembering when he coached Midlands to a victory over Randall Davis’ team, and then to a win over Lexington where they scored 16 runs in the last inning.
Nothing was ever given to Marc. He earned everything in life the old fashioned way – through tough, in the trenches, hard work. But unlike some who come up through rough times, Marc was not hardened by adversity; he was made gentle and kind by life’s travails.
He didn’t lecture his boys harshly about his own struggle. He modeled decent behavior and family devotion for them.
Marc would have celebrated his 59th birthday two weeks and a day from now. Nink and Herb Westbrook surely hit a home run when they brought Marc into the world. He graduated from T.L Hanna High School in 1964 and immediately entered Anderson College receiving his AA degree in 1966.
Westbrook trivia stumper: How many of you can name the sport in which Marc participated at Anderson. Answer – he was a pole vaulter. (you got that visual).
Marc then came to Columbia to meet the first two loves of his life. He entered the University of South Carolina and he met Linda Lawhon.
You’ll love the story of how Linda and Marc met. He was active in many undergrad activities. Linda admired him from afar as a big shot in Baptist Student Union where he served as President. Friends introduced them, appropriately enough, at a Carolina Basketball game in the old Field House, and the rest was history.
On their first date, Marc took Linda to a play on campus. Afterwards, as he was driving her home, they passed a church bus broken down on the side of the road. Naturally, Marc stopped and spent the next hour helping get the people comfortable and the bus started. So much for the romantic first date.
Linda was prepared from the beginning for Marc’s lifelong habit of picking up hitchhikers, stopping for anyone in distress, and loving everything Carolina.
After graduation, Linda and March married and headed together to seminary at Southern Baptist in Louisville, KY. After Linda completed her masters in social work, they returned to Columbia where Marc enrolled in Law School. Marc’s first semester, he couldn’t afford to purchase the law books, so Marc would go to the library every night, check out the text books, read the cases and make up his case skinny’s. He worked his way through law school and yet found time to be involved in many student activities, including membership on Carolina’s national moot court team.
Upon graduation, he joined the West Columbia firm of Bryan, Crosby and Bates. He and Linda purchased their first and only home in Cedar Terrace, joined Springdale Baptist Church, and began to put down lifelong roots in this community.
Marc was into every community and political project in those days. As acolytes of Don Fowler, we worked together on many Young Democrats projects. The Watergate era spawned a generation of idealists. Ravenel’s campaign for governor was a rallying point for many of us.
Marc and I both ran for House in 1974, the first year of reapportionment. He lost a close race. I went to the House, and we passed Home Rule, which became the platform for Marc’s successful entry into elective office. In 1976, Lexington went to a county council form of government. Marc won election and at age 30 became the youngest ever to chair Lexington County Council. That year, we also worked in the leadership of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Campaign, another resounding victory for young, new South Carolina political figures.
Two years later, Marc was successfully elected to the South Carolina House from District 88, and immediately became a member of the new leadership.
As an experienced member of the newly emerging home rule style of county government, he floor led many pieces of progressive legislation strengthening county government and public education. He was a leader in protecting the interests of Lexington County in Reapportionment. One of Marc’s few failures was his inability to persuade the delegation to support C funds for a ring road around the Town of Lexington. No one else believed the Town would ever grow to need a bypass. Now we know.
His public career came to full maturity with his election as a Family Court Judge. I was proud to be a floor leader for that election. After holding every leadership position in the Family Court arena, in 1994 Marc was elected to succeed Jay Baggett as a resident judge of the Eleventh Circuit. In this position, he has literally changed the face of Justice in Lexington, spearheading the use of alternate dispute resolution, drug court, and construction of a new courthouse. On a state level, he has served as my right hand man in the use of technology and served numerous assignments as an Acting Justice on the South Carolina Supreme Court.
His impact on the next generation of South Carolinians will endure for the ages through his leadership in “We the People,” a High School Constitutional Law competition, the High School Mock Trial Competition and, most recently, the first Supreme Court Institute for High School teachers.
Marc was at the top of his game. His future might have included: membership on the Supreme Court or a return to elective politics. And even now, Marc was enrolled in classes at Lutheran Seminary.
I don’t know all of the places Marc will be remembered in the future – perhaps on the Judicial Center, a church, a scholarship, a competition – but I know that when the judicial history of South Carolina is recorded, the name of Marc H. Westbrook will be writ large as one of our State’s greatest judges. Marc’s life was, simply put, a life well and decently lived.
Linda, Thad, and Richard, he can say as did Paul to his son Timothy:
|[T]he time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.|
Shakespeare’s words, upon the death of a prince, frame my farewell to this remarkable man:
Now cracks a noble heart.
Goodnight sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing
thee to thy rest.