Richland County residents appearing before Judge Michael Davis at the Lykesland Magistrate Office nowadays could be described as witnesses to history.
That’s because Davis, who has 45 years on the bench, is currently the longest-serving judge in the state and is the longest-sitting magistrate in the history of Richland County. In November, Richland County Council honored his service, presenting Davis with a special resolution before an audience filled with his family members, staff and fellow Richland County magistrate judges.
“It’s important to recognize someone who has served so diligently and who is so well respected locally and statewide,” said Council Chair Norman Jackson, District 11. “It’s hard to find someone who’s so dedicated and committed. He’s a monument in the Lower Richland community.”
Davis’ career began in 1970 when he was first elected to office and will continue through his state-required retirement in 2016. Over the decades, he’s established roots with his community and built long-standing relationships with Richland County residents, government officials, law enforcement entities, state legislators and national figures.
“It’s been a pleasure working with him over the years,” said Richland County Chief Magistrate Judge Donald Simons. “He’s not only well known in the County, but all over the state as well, and he’s one of the most knowledgeable magistrate judges.”
At the time when magistrate judges were elected, Davis won his seat by 13 votes.
“I was 26 years old,” said Davis, now 70. “I walked to every house asking for votes.”
Since his initial election, he won three more terms as magistrate judge before the position became appointed. South Carolina has about 300 magistrates appointed to four-year terms by the Governor upon the advice and consent of the Senate.
Davis’ family has a legacy of public service. Several ancestors served as magistrate judges in Richland County and his father was a Richland County deputy sheriff. For a year, in 1977, Davis had dual roles, also serving as the Richland County Coroner after the coroner – who at the time didn’t have deputies – became incapacitated.
“I don’t think I slept for three days,” Davis said.
In addition to his daily responsibilities as magistrate judge – which include issuing warrants and conducting hearings and trials – Davis spends time with his family, serves as an honored member on the Board of Visitors for Clemson University and volunteers in local civic organizations. As a member of the Jamil Flying Fezzes, which is part of Shriners International, Davis flew local children with burn injuries to a special burn treatment center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“It was always very rewarding to be able to do that,” Davis said. “The children were always so appreciative, and their family members and friends. We could fly them there in under three hours, and then we’d bring them home again after they’d been treated.”
Davis’ leadership and mentorship is apparent in his three loyal staff members – Julia Anderson, Amber Brazell and Judy Reeder – two of which have worked for him at the Lykesland Magistrate Office for more than 15 years. He has won numerous awards for his service as a judiciary officer and has the signed portraits of seven South Carolina governors – all personally addressed to Davis – hanging on his office wall.
Though South Carolina law will require Davis to retire on June 30, 2016, at the age of 72, he said he would happily continue serving as magistrate judge if he could.
“I never thought about doing anything else all these years,” Davis said. “I’ve enjoyed coming to work every day.”