Fulton County Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington announced Thursday that he is retiring from the bench in February.
"I've been on the treadmill for 43 years," Arrington said in a telephone interview. "Now would be a good time for me to pass the baton."
Arrington, a former president of the Atlanta City Council, entered public service in 1969 when, at age 27, he was elected to what then was known as the Atlanta Board of Aldermen.
"I've had a good run," he said. "I feel good about the work I've done."
In a letter delivered Thursday to Gov. Nathan Deal, who will appoint Arrington's successor, Arrington said he plans to step down Feb. 18, when he is 71 years old.
"It has been my honor to serve the city of Atlanta, Fulton County and this state in many capacities over five decades," Arrington wrote. "My greatest honor has been the service I rendered to Fulton County as a Superior Court judge."
Arrington, a Fulton judge since 2002, asked Deal to appoint him as a senior judge after he retires.
In recent years, Arrington has had run-ins with District Attorney Paul Howard, including a shouting match between the two men in a courthouse hallway in 2009 after Arrington found one of Howard's prosecutors in contempt. In 2008, Arrington attracted national attention when he cleared white people out of his courtroom to talk to a few dozen African-American defendants appearing before him.
On Thursday, Arrington noted with pride that he has helped and mentored a number of young black students who later became successful lawyers. As for what he told black defendants in his courtroom that day, Arrington said, "I told them: ‘Stay in school. Get your lessons. Stop robbing. Turn your lives around.' "
Marvin Arrington's milestones
Feb. 10, 1941 -- Born at what was then known as Grady Hospital to truck driver George Arrington and domestic worker Maggie Arrington
1967 -- Becomes one of the first African-American students to graduate from Emory University Law School
1969 -- Elected to the Atlanta Board of Aldermen, later to become the Atlanta City Council
1973 -- Joins Atlanta law firm that becomes Arrington, Winter, Krischer and Goge
1980 -- Wins election as president of the Atlanta City Council, a position he holds for 16 years
1989 -- Joins with civil rights attorney Donald Hollowell, now deceased, to form Arrington and Hollowell law firm
1997 -- Challenges incumbent Mayor Bill Campbell but loses bitter contest in runoff
2002 -- Appointed by then-Gov. Roy Barnes to Fulton County Superior Court bench
Oct. 6, 2011 -- Notifies Gov. Nathan Deal that he will retire from bench on Feb. 18