Claiborne “Buddy” McDonald IV, a judge who served on a circuit court in south-central Mississippi and was a longtime prosecutor in the area, has died. He was 75.
McDonald died Monday at Forrest General Hospital after an undisclosed illness, said Beverly Kraft, a spokesperson for the Mississippi Judiciary.
Known as “Buddy” to most people, McDonald was described as a fair and empathetic judge who firmly followed the law, said Prentiss Harrell, a fellow judge on the 15th District Circuit, speaking to The Hattiesburg American.
“He cared about people and was compassionate to people who needed compassion, but he also upheld the law in a strong way,” Harrell said. “We’re going to miss him. He was a good judge.”
A funeral Mass will be held Friday at noon at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Picayune, the newspaper reported.
McDonald took his seat in January 2016 in a newly created position on the court to help ease the caseload for the district, which covers Lamar, Marion, Pearl River, Jefferson Davis and Lawrence counties. On Dec. 19, the Mississippi Supreme Court was informed that McDonald would be unable to attend or hold court for an indefinite time, and William E. Andrews III was appointed to fill McDonald’s seat.
McDonald previously served as district attorney and assistant district attorney for the 15th district and held other public service positions including prosecuting attorney for Pearl River County and municipal judge and city attorney in Picayune.
Supreme Court Presiding Justice Jim Kitchens of Crystal Springs, a longtime colleague, said McDonald was “a man of solid integrity, a dedicated servant of the law, and a reliable servant of the public.”
“As a prosecuting attorney, he was fair and he was formidable. As a trial judge, he took his oath of office seriously and served with impartiality, patience and devotion to the rule of law. His years of honorable work in our state’s courts will be remembered and admired by all who knew him.”
Pearl River County Court Judge Richelle Lumpkin recalled working with McDonald when he was an assistant district attorney and she was county prosecutor. As a judge, he was of impeccable integrity and dedication, she said.
“He had a brilliant legal mind,” she said. “He was a well-read and well-rounded individual. Any subject that you wanted to talk about, he knew something about it. You didn’t have to talk to him long before you knew there’s no one else like Buddy McDonald. He was one of a kind.”
His public service didn’t end in the courtroom, his friends said.
Lumpkin said he quietly contributed his time and efforts through civic, church and charitable activities such as assistance for underprivileged children.
“There is so much that Buddy did that people don’t know about,” she said.
Survivors include his wife, Suzy Stockstill McDonald, four children and 13 grandchildren.