Frank Barger takes oath to become fourth Madison County probate judge in decades
HUNTSVILLE — In addition to gaining a new sheriff Jan. 14, Madison County gained another dedicated public servant as Frank Barger took oath at the Madison County Courthouse to become the county’s fourth judge of probate since 1971.
Barger succeeds Tommy Ragland, who recently retired after serving three six-year terms as probate judge. Madison County voters elected Barger to be their new probate judge during the 2018 midterm elections on Nov. 6. He was surrounded by a host of family, friends, coworkers, officials and fellow Christians on Jan. 14, though he said no one was more excited for his big day of investiture than his son, Grant.
Those who spoke at Banger’s investiture spoke highly of both Barger and his family as they recalled many of their personal and professional experiences with them. They also commended the family for their hard work and dedication on the campaign trail.
Attorney Travis Jackson, who conducted the program, started things off with his own compliments to Barger. “We all know he’s going to be an excellent probate judge, not just for the people in this room, but for each and every citizen of this county whether they voted for him or not,” he said.
Martha Campbell Pullen said she was “so honored” to be asked to give the invocation. Before offering her prayer, she shared two encouraging scriptures with Barger and his family: Ephesians 2:10 and Philippians 4:13. Robert Barger then led attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance.
In his remarks, John Meredith called Barger an “inspiration” to Madison County residents for setting a goal and working to overcome any obstacle that stood before him. “He is proof the American dream is alive and well for those who apply themselves,” he said.
Though Meredith said he has not known Barger for long, he respects, supports and holds Barger in a special place in his heart.
“There are people in this world who make you a better person just for knowing them,” Meredith said. “For whatever reason, simply watching them go about their daily lives makes you reach beyond what was previously possible in your own. Frank Barger is one of those people.”
Meredith also emphasized his confidence in Barger to empathize and remain humble while keeping the election process “the best” in the state, and perhaps the country. “He will be the blind scale of justice that will protect the humble from the wolves,” Meredith said. He closed his remarks by adding that he felt “humbled” that Barger provided him a front-row seat to his investiture.
Madison County District Court Judge Linda Coats recalled how adept Barger was at his job from the first time she met him in February 2011, shortly after he was hired in the probate office and Coats was still in private practice.
“I would go to him first, whether it was a guardianship or a will or a deed or having a notary renewed,” she said. “He seemed to know everything, and I thought, ‘Well … I think he’s a bit too overqualified for this job.’”
After eventually meeting Barger’s wife, Jennifer, through the Republican Women of Huntsville, Coats said she was invited to lunch where they shared the news that Barger was considering running for probate judge. Coats “gladly gave” her support.
Considering the county’s three probate judges before him, Coats expressed her confidence that Barger would be able to fill those big shoes.
“We’ve been very blessed to have very stable, very competent and long-serving probate judges, and Frank will serve just like the rest of them since 1971,” she declared. “… Frank is going to be everything that we expect a probate judge to be.”
Coats said Barger did a “great job” campaigning alongside his family, and she had full confidence that Barger would win the election.
Before administering the oath, retired District Judge Billy Bell also shared his love and faith in Barger.
Bell met Barger through church and also knew him from his work in the probate office. He recalled a phone call he received from Barger a few months before he made the decision to run for probate judge.
“Those of us who have run campaigns know very well the emotional stress—the toll that it will take on not only the candidate, but also their family, and it’s immense,” Bell said. “We sat down, and we talked about that in the den of my home.”
At that time, Bell said he explained the gravity of the decision and made sure Barger knew that it would not only be his decision, but his family’s.
“Before he left that day, in my den, Frank Barger and I said a prayer together, and I have not stopped praying for Frank and for Jennifer and Grant and for the whole Team Barger,” Bell added. He also committed to help him in any way possible.
Bell broke down the mind-boggling numbers in Barger’s campaign, from meetings to daily handshakes to speaking engagements to yard signs. In all, Bell said Barger drove more than 17,000 miles in the county during this time.
“I’ve never seen a harder working, better organized campaign than the one that Frank put together with the help of everybody in this room,” Bell said. “He’s tireless. He was relentless in his rigorous quest for this office.”
Like Coats, Bell said he has confidence Barger has what it takes to succeed as Madison County probate judge, even comparing him to his “personal and judicial hero,” the late Judge Frank Riddick.
“I had no doubt then, and I have no doubt now that Frank has the same qualities that I admired in Judge Riddick—the qualities that it takes to be a great judge,” he said. “He’s conscientious. He knows the law. He’ll apply it evenly and fairly. He’s humble. He’s a people person. He has such as servant’s heart, and I know he’ll be fair to everybody who comes in his office … and that he will treat everybody with civility and respect.”
As Barger prepared to take oath, young Grant captured many hearts as he shed a few tears out of a love for his father. Following Bell’s remarks, Barger took his oath with a hand resting on two Bibles: a new one from his wife, inscribed with his name and new position, and an old one that belonged to his paternal grandfather.
“I can’t say thank you enough, and I can’t begin to name names,” Barger said. “This room is filled full of people who have worked so hard so that I could have this opportunity, and we’re going to do a job that you’ll be proud of. I can assure you that.”
Barger touched on his faith and family, which he said have taught him to treat everyone with dignity, respect and sincerity. He also told attendees of the work he has already begun in terms of mental health commitment and protecting the assets of seniors and children.
Among Barger’s supporters at his investiture was Madison County’s new sheriff, Kevin Turner. Barger said the two became close friends and confidants during their campaigns and were able to help and encourage each other.
In addition to Turner, Barger thanked a host of people including his wife, Jennifer; his son, Grant; his attending family and friends; his campaign team and supporters; and retired Probate Judge Tommy Ragland.
In closing, Barger said he wants to be accessible to the county.
“I work for you,” he said. “I’m accountable to you. If I can ever be of help to you in any way … don’t ever hesitate to reach out to my office. I work for you, and that’s why I’m here. I appreciate each of you so very much. I hope that God richly blesses each of you. Thank you all so much for your support. Thank you for being here today as we finish the final step.”
The Rev. Robert Sparkman offered the benediction. For more on the county probate office, visit madisoncountyal.gov.