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Judge Don Sirmons Remembered

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 10:43 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Judge Don Sirmons was elected as a Bay County Judge in 1979. At the age of 28, he was sworn in as the youngest judge in Florida. He was appointed to circuit judge in 1984 by Governor Bob Graham then named chief circuit court judge in 1997. Judge Sirmons decided to lay down his gavel in 2010 at the age of 61.

Last week, the man described by many as larger than life... passed away.

While most of Bay County knew him as judge, Rebecca Sirmons knew him as dad.

“I think the saddest thing for me about all of this is I wish there were more people like him these days,” said Rebecca.

She added life will be emptier now that her best friend is gone.

“I live in Los Angeles, but I would call my dad every day, talk to him every day. Get his take on things.”

Rebecca loved listening to the lighter side of his 33 years on the bench.

“Swear to you this is a true story, he was doing first appearances the night of Christmas and there was a man arrested, dead serious, for defrauding the innkeeper. And he had a group that was following him around and when he (Judge Sirmons) said state your name he said, Jesus Christ. Everybody stood up.”

But Judge Sirmons did preside over some very serious high profile cases including former Bay Medical Examiner Sr. William Cybers who was accused of poisoning his wife in 1990.

“The only appeal my dad ever had was Dr. Cybers,” said Rebecca.

Those who knew the judge describe him as humble. That goes for those who knew him best.

“You would never think meeting him outside of the community that he was a judge,” said Rebecca. “He was so humble and he really cared about people he genuinely did.”

He didn’t let his job interfere with his family.

“I never doubted that my dad loved me,” said Rebecca. “It’s one of those relationships where you know 100% that person is gonna be there and have your back and love you no matter what. He was my best friend.”

As proud as her dad was of her, Rebecca was equally as proud of him.

“He looked at his job, he looked at it like a public servant. He was here to serve the community,” said Rebecca. “It wasn’t to be powerful, it wasn’t any of that, to be the person that makes decisions. He wanted to do the right thing. Because you wanted that person to be your judge. You want fair and balanced. Somebody who can really look at both sides and he honestly can.”

Rebecca isn’t his only daughter.

“Sarah is 35 and has down syndrome,” said Rebecca. “What I loved about my dad is that he didn’t treat us any different.”

Judge Sirmons was a huge advocate for the Arc of the Bay in Panama City, a group that helps adults with special needs integrate into the community.

“He got involved with The Arc of the Bay because of my sister,” said Rebecca. “He coached her special needs golf team and he coached her bowling team the Pin Spinners. And no one told him to do these things that they are the right thing to do. He just did it because he was who he was as a person.”

Even though he’s gone now, Rebecca said she believes he’s still keeping an eye on things.

“Hopefully he’s gonna be doing some good work upstairs and he’s gonna help change the world. I feel he has more power now to do good,” said Rebecca.

A memorial service for Judge Sirmons will be held on December 4th at 10 a.m. at Wilsons Funeral Home.

The Arc of the Bay will then host a celebration of Judge Sirmons’ life at noon that day.

In 2018 The Arc of the Bay named its expanded adult day training Facility after Judge Sirmons.

If you’d like to make a memorial donation, the family is asking that you do so by giving to The Arc of the Bay, and the Chautauqua Learn and Serve Charter School in his memory.

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