Melton sworn in as new state Supreme Court chief justice

While serving as Georgia’s governor, Sonny Perdue said he was fortunate to have an executive counsel who had the fortitude to sometimes say, “Governor, you can’t do that.”

That executive counsel was Harold Melton, and Perdue valued Melton's advice so much he later appointed him to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court of Georgia.

"I cannot identify in my life a more fair-minded person than Harold Melton," Perdue, now U.S. Agriculture Secretary, said Tuesday, introducing Melton before he was sworn in as the next chief justice of the state's highest court.

Melton, 51, took the oath from Harris Hines, his longtime friend, mentor and predecessor as chief justice. Hines recalled that, when he was a Cobb County judge decades ago, his wife read a story in the newspaper about a promising young college student who said he wanted to become a lawyer. At her urging, Hines called Melton and recruited him to serve as an intern.

“I have loved him since that time,” said the 74-year-old Hines, who wore a small UGA emblem on the upper back of his robe to show his support for the Bulldogs. “I don’t know if he’s like my youngest brother or oldest child.”

The only problem Hines said he had with Melton was his alma mater: Auburn University. Not missing a beat, Melton wore a Auburn emblem on his robe as well. At Auburn, Melton became the school’s first black student body president.

During a short speech, Melton thanked his family and many friends from his church, his neighborhood and his past for helping him get to where he is today.

Melton, who has served on the state Supreme Court since 2005, succeeds Hines, who is retiring from the bench. Before swearing in Melton, Hines administered the oath to David Nahmias as the Supreme Court's next presiding justice.