Another door opens: Debra Blackwell sworn in as new circuit judge

Published 12:20 am Friday, December 28, 2018

NATCHEZ — Debra Blackwell was officially sworn in Thursday morning as the District 6-2 Circuit Court Judge, a seat vacated by the former Judge Forrest “Al” Johnson, who recently retired.

Johnson, who served 24 years as the circuit judge, said he was able to observe Blackwell’s tremendous work ethic as the Assistant District Attorney for the past 16 years and felt confident that she would do just as well when he left office.

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“Wow,” Blackwell said, as she stood at the podium facing her friends, family and officials that came to watch her become the new circuit judge.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being in politics is that you spend a lot of time reflecting on your life and how you got here. You also spend a lot of time in prayer. Throughout my life, God has opened doors for me that I never thought possible.”

Blackwell said her introduction to the legal realm dates back to when she was 21 years old and was hired as a legal secretary.

“My life in the legal world really got started when I slammed a door that God had opened for me,” she said.

Blackwell said she could remember a time when her life could’ve taken a whole new direction when she thought her employer, Joseph Zuccaro, would fire her for slamming the door to his office after a heated argument.

“I slammed the door so hard, the walls shook,” Blackwell said. “I thought I was about to go home.”

Instead, Zuccaro and Blackwell apologized to each other and she continued working, she said.

“From that day forward, we never had another cross word,” Blackwell said. “It would’ve been terrible if I had been fired that day. I would’ve gone down a completely different path. … Some things I’ve learned from him are to work hard, be prepared and always make the best decision you can. That’s something I’ve always done my whole life.”

Since then, Blackwell worked for a decade in private practice and later as an assistant to District Attorney Ronnie Harper for 16 years, earning nearly 30 years of legal experience.

Blackwell said at the end of each day as the circuit judge, she would leave the courtroom with the firm knowledge that she had made not only the right and just decisions but also the best decisions she could make.

“I’m going to get up every morning and do what I need to do to be prepared when I walk in this courtroom,” she said, “and I’m going to make the best decisions I can, based on the facts and the law.”