North Carolina judge dies suddenly at age 56

Guilford County, North Carolina — which encompasses the populous city of Greensboro — is in a state of mourning following the unexpected death of well-respected Chief District Court Judge Tom Jarrell, who died at his home in nearby High Point on Saturday at the age of 56.

He is survived by his mother Mary, his wife Cindy, and three sons named David, Robert, and Thomas.

Sad and untimely loss

The Greensboro News & Record reported that Jarrell’s untimely death ripped “a big hole” in the county’s judicial community. The judge, who had served for more than two decades, had been highly regarded by his friends and colleagues in the area and across the state.

Jarrell was in the midst of his 20th year on the bench after being appointed to serve as a district judge in 1999. According to a spokesperson for the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, Jarrell’s replacement will soon be appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper.

“We are deeply saddened at the sudden loss of Judge Tom Jarrell of Guilford County, who served justice and his community with unparalleled dedication. Our state has lost a true public servant,” Gov. Cooper said in a statement.

Decades of service

Jarrell’s career in the state’s justice system began after he graduated from Guilford College and then Campbell University and, following a few years in private practice as an attorney, joined the Guilford County District Attorney’s Office.

Aside from serving as the chief district judge, Jarrell also served as president of the North Carolina Association of District Court Judges, as well as on several advisory boards, including the state’s Governor’s Crime Commission.

Jarrell was also credited with helping create a program known as Street Safe, which provides training on proper driving skills for young drivers from law enforcement instructors.

A community in mourning

One of dozens in the community to memorialize Jarrell, Steve Cole, the chief assistant district attorney who’d served alongside Jarrell in the early days of his career, remembered the judge fondly.

“He immediately proved himself as an effective prosecutor before continuing his career from the bench,” Cole said. “It is difficult to find the words that express how much he will be missed.”

Joe Craig, Guilford County senior resident superior judge, added that Jarrell had been “indispensable” to the county’s judicial system.

“I think that the county and the courthouse family lost one of the most important members of our group and it’s a terrible tragedy for me,” Craig said. “He’s one of those few people to me that seems irreplaceable.”

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