From the Bench to Beloved Community
The Honorable Clinton Devereaux
St. Paul’s | Atlanta
From the civil rights movement to the judicial bench, Clinton Deveaux sharpened his skills of listening, patience and respect for all types of people. That prepared him for a new thing: serving for the past five years as a reconciliation trainer and board member at the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing.
“I’ve found myself in the position of using the skills I taught myself as a judge, in abiding by the code, listen with patience and respect, regardless of the facts as presented,” he said. “The judicial code is like God’s love for us, and treating people with decency means they deserve my patient listening. There’s no better example of that than God.”
Deveaux’s passion for this new role in his 70s makes him feel like it’s 1969 all over again, when he moved from New York to help Andrew Young, one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest advisors, run for Congress.
A cradle Episcopalian, Deveaux said relocating to Atlanta showed him “the importance of religious life and leadership in the civil rights movement.” He attended Emory Law School, and in 1981 was appointed to the Atlanta municipal bench by Mayor Maynard Jackson.
Three decades as a judge inform Deveaux’s compassionate reconciliation work in pursuit of the Beloved Community, which he believes all of us are called to. Beloved Community is as much a practice as a destination. Connecting in a societal wilderness created by racism requires disciplined listening.
“If we listen to each other, we can listen to each other,” he said. His role more often than not is “on a Zoom screen of 20 to 25 folk who are talking about and listening to racial injustice and the pain and separation from Christ that racism brings,” he said.
“It’s new but it’s not new. Christ showed us example, but we haven’t heard, to do the work. I keep my religious beliefs outside of the court, but my religious faith is about doing the right thing and listening for the opportunity of what God’s love is about. We are all children of God no matter what mistakes we have made.”