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When Mobile County became a part of the United States, a five member "County Court" was established, and the Judge of Probate was the presiding officer of the County Court. This court, like its counterparts in most other Southern states, was also the chief administrative and legislative body in the county and an inferior court with limited civil and criminal jurisdiction. In 1821, the composition of the County Court was changed from five justices and a clerk to one "County Judge" and a clerk. At the same time, a separate "Court of County Commissioners" was established, consisting of four commissioners and the County Judge. This arrangement provided for some separation of the judicial function from the administrative and legislative function at the county level. The County Court was vested mainly with the same judicial powers of its predecessor, and the County Judge was assigned the same powers formerly exercised by the chief justice of the former inferior County Court. The administrative and legislative functions, such as control over roads, bridges, ferries and the management of public buildings were assigned to the new Court of County Commissioners.

In 1850, a court of probate, as we know it today, was established in each Alabama county. The positions of clerk and judge of the County Court were consolidated into an office of "Judge of Probate." Unlike the County Judge who was appointed for a six year term, the Judge of Probate was to be popularly elected for a term of six years. Jurisdiction of the former County Court was for the most part transferred to the Probate Court, the major exception being civil and criminal jurisdiction, neither of which were vested in the new Probate Court. The Judge of Probate was given the authority formerly exercised by the County Judge and Clerk of the County Court, with authority to appoint his own clerk. Like his predecessor, the Judge of Probate was made a member of the Court of County Commissioners. At one time, the Judge of Probate had jurisdiction over juvenile, welfare, desertion, and non-support cases and matters. As time progressed, these duties and responsibilities were transferred to other courts and governmental entities.

As Mobile County grew and became the second most populous county in Alabama, the duties and responsibilities of the Mobile County Judge of Probate were augmented. The Judge of Probate ceased serving as chairman of the Court of County Commissioners (now called the Mobile County Commission) and the jurisdiction of the Mobile County Judge of Probate was expanded to enable the Mobile County Probate Court to hear and rule upon some judicial matters that were being heard by judges of the Circuit Courts. As these changes occurred, it was recognized that a person "learned in the law" should serve as Judge of Probate, consistent with requirements relating to judges of the Circuit Court. Mobile, Jefferson, Shelby, Baldwin, Houston, Montgomery, and Pickens Counties are the only seven counties in the State of Alabama where it is required that the Judge of Probate be licensed to practice law. Further, in a number of Alabama counties today, the Judge of Probate continues to serve as chairperson of said counties' board of commissioners. 

Previous Judges of Probate (and Presiding Judges of County Court)

Name Years Served Title
Josiah Blakeley1813Chief Justice of the County Court
John Hinson (Henson)1814Chief Justice of the County Court
Alvin Robeshow (Robeshaw)1816Chief Justice of the County Court
Henry Vassal Chamberlain1819Chief Justice of the County Court
Cyrus Sibley1820Chief Justice of the County Court
Thomas Murray1821 - 1822
William Hale1823 - 1832
William Mallory Garrow1833 - 1836
John Fagan Everett1837 - 1842
George F. Lindsay1842
John A. Cuthbert1843 - 1848
Joseph Seawell1848 - 1850
Edwin Rust1851 - 1854
Alexander B. Meek1854 - 1855
Jonathan A. Hitchcock1855 - 1860
George W. Bond1861 - 1868
Admiral Raphael Semmes1867**HISTORY NOTE! Former Confederate States of America Admiral, RAPHAEL SEMMES was elected Judge of Probate in 1867 ... But Federal Authorities WOULD NOT PERMIT HIM TO SERVE!
Gustavus Horton1867 - 1873
Price Williams, Jr.1874 - 1914
Price Williams1915 - 1937
Matthew A. Boykin1937 - 1940
Norvelle R. Leigh, Jr.1940 - 1950
William C. Taylor1950
Walter F. Gaillard1950 - 1954
T. L. Griffin1954 - 1956
Vernol R. Jansen1956 - 1963
John L. Moore, III1963 - 1982
L. W. “Red” Noonan1983 - 2001
Don Davis2001 - present

King Solomon Sculpture

Sculpture of King Solomon by Craig Sheldon 

"Justice Grants To Each That Which Is His Due" as shown in Courtroom 1 of the Mobile County Government Center Annex

King Solomon Sculpture

"Justice Is a Man's Abiding Interest For Justice is Truth in Action" as shown in Courtroom 2 of the Mobile County Government Center Annex

Click for information on Courtroom Sculptures

Click to view the Court's 2010 Dedication Ceremony, which includes information about each judge of the Court