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Colleagues mourn passing of Cannon

August 3rd, 2011 10:30 pm by Becky Campbell

A retired Sessions Court judge known for his fair rulings and kind heart passed away Monday, and at least one person who knew him said a light in the world went out with his death.
Judge Stewart Cannon, 84, died Monday at his home.
Cannon retired in 1998 after serving 28 years as a Washington County Sessions Court judge, a record at the time he left office. He handled all cases as the county’s only Sessions Court judge until 1980 when a second judgeship was created to ease the burden of the growing docket.
Cannon’s counterpart during those years, retired Judge John Kiener, said in the 18 years they were judges together they only had one disagreement.
“He was an absolute committed Democrat and I was an absolute committed Republican,” Kiener said.
But even that never came between the two judges, he said. In all those years serving together, the men never argued, Kiener said.
Kiener said he last saw Cannon at a 60th anniversary celebration for Cannon and his wife, Norma Jean.
That marriage was one of the happiest family friend Janet Vest Hardin said she ever saw.
Hardin, an assistant district attorney general, was best friends with Cannon’s daughter and the two grew up together.
“A little light went out in the world,” with Cannon’s death, Hardin said.
“I don’t think there was a nicer, kinder, fairer man on the planet. He truly saw the best in everyone and he just hated when he saw injustices,” Hardin said.
“He believed people would be able to change. He was imminently fair, treated everyone equally and with the upmost respect. Truly, without a doubt there, was not anyone like him before and I don’t think there will be again,” she said.
“They had the happiest family and happiest marriage of anyone I’ve ever known.”
Hardin said Cannon used to call her “Little Janet V.,” but when she began practicing law she told him he couldn’t call her that in court.
“I just loved him like I would have a dad. He had a huge impact on my life. He was always somebody I could go to.
Another attribute of Cannon’s was his “impeccable” clothing.
“He was the most dashing dresser,” Hardin said.
Kiener said he thought he shocked Cannon at times by wearing jeans or shorts because Cannon was never seen in anything other than business attire.
Kiener said Cannon was instrumental in forming several court-related programs, including a Drug Court, a DUI school for offenders, and CASA, an advocacy group for children involved in court cases.
“If somebody had suggestions about a program, he was always willing to try it,” Kiener said.
“He was a teriffic role model for me,” he said. “He wasn’t a pushover, but it didn’t make a difference who you were. He treated everyone with respect.”
And outside the courtroom, Hardin said Cannon was “the ultimate southern gentleman.”

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