AMERICUS -- Nearly one year after his death, the late Superior Court Judge John V. Harper is being remembered by a brotherhood he loved dearly, the Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
Friends, family members, co-workers and Kappa Sigma brothers past and present gathered at Georgia Southwestern State University in front of the fraternity house on a cold Saturday morning for the dedication of the alumni house to Harper, who died last December, having been hospitalized for several days.
Harper had a congenital heart defect, and had undergone several surgeries in his lifetime to correct the problem.
Rusty Whaley, one of Harper's many fraternity brothers, was the first to speak.
"We are not here to mourn, but to celebrate the life and legacy of John V. Harper," Whaley said.
Whaley was friends with Harper while he was still in high school.
"I knew John," Whaley said. "He was a great guy ... I respected and looked up to him."
The next speaker was Russ Barnes, former law partner of Harper's, and he presented a proclamation by Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue for the event. Framed and matted, the proclamation was given to the current Kappa Sigma administration to hang in the fraternity house.
The next two speakers, Jeff Baxley and Mickey Garnto, were fraternity brothers of the late judge. They not only spoke of Harper's legacy, but also how he embodied the brotherhood spirit of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
"Thank you for sharing John with us," Baxley said to Harper's family.
He said Harper was an "encourager ... He never whined. He was a bold individual ... If what he said stepped on a few toes, then so be it."
"He believed in this fraternity," Baxley said. He said the friendships he formed in the fraternity "changed my life. I've never been prouder to be a Kappa Sigma."
Garnto also met Harper during the high school years, he said.
"He always made you feel like he was your best friend," Garnto said. "He always made you feel like he was number one."
Garnto spoke of how Harper's dream was to become a Superior Court judge.
"The people of this Circuit ... saw a born leader," when they elected Harper, Garnto said.
After Garnto spoke, Michael and Amanda Harper, Harper's son and daughter, unveiled the new sign in front of the house.
Harper was initiated into the Kappa Kappa Chapter of the fraternity on Feb. 21, 1977. He served as Grand Master of Ceremonies and Grand Master.
He graduated summa cum laude from GSW in 1981, and he graduated summa cum laude from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University in 1985.
That same year, he joined the law firm of Ellis, Easterlin, Peagler and Skipper. In 1989, Harper became a partner.
In 1996, Harper and Barnes formed their own law firm. In 2001, Harper was elected Superior Court judge of the Southwestern Judicial Circuit.
In addition to his children, he is survived by his wife, Amzie D. Harper; his mother, Willie Harper; and two brothers, Dr. William M. Harper IV and Dr. Samuel G. Harper.
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