A Hero Becomes Judge

Charles Kibbee was groomed to be a judge. With the unequaled advantages of a superior education and the aid of his mentor, Charles Kibbee began the practice of law in 1859. His career on hold, Kibbee enlisted in the Confederate army and quickly rose through the ranks to become a Lieutenant Colonel. Heroes of the War Between the States were revered by the voters of the day. So, it was only natural that this hero-lawyer would become a Judge of the Superior Court of the Oconee Circuit, which included Laurens County for a brief time.

Charles Carroll Kibbee was born in Macon, Georgia on August 25, 1837. His parents sent him to Princeton college, where he graduated in 1858. In those days, aspiring lawyers had to do apprentice work under a mentor of their choosing. Kibbee couldn't have made a better choice. Charles studied under the guidance of Thomas R.R. Cobb. Cobb, who served as the reporter for the Georgia Supreme Court, was the first person to compile a comprehensive digest of Georgia laws. A brother of the Hon. Howell Cobb, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and former governor of Georgia, T.R.R. Cobb was instrumental in the compiling of the Georgia Code of 1861.

After his admission to the bar in Watkinsville in 1859, Kibbee removed himself to Hawkinsville. When war broke out in the spring of 1861, Kibbee was among the first to enlist. He was assigned as an orderly sergeant of Company C, 10th Georgia Infantry. Within a few months, Kibbee rose to the rank of lieutenant. By the winter of 1861-2, Kibbee was elected captain of the company. His first lieutenant was Dr. Peyton Wade Douglas, a future mayor of Dublin.

The 10th Georgia saw bitter action in the battles of the Seven Days, as well as the horrific battles of Chancellorsville, Antietam, and Gettysburg, in addition to a short stint in the state of Tennessee. Captain Kibbee, who was wounded at Savage Station, was promoted to the position of Lieutenant Colonel for his gallantry, especially on the battlefield at Chancellorsville, where valiant and the incomparable General Stonewall Jackson fell with a mortal wound.

When General Lee surrendered his forces at Appomattox in April 1865, Kibbee's regiment was positioned at the High Bridge on the Appomattox River not very far away from the actual surrender. With no way else to get home, Kibbee set out on foot for Georgia. It took him three weeks to get back, but he did so without any substantial difficulties.

Col. Kibbee returned to Hawkinsville to resume his practice. He refused to take the oath of allegiance to the United States and was temporarily barred from the practice of law. After a few months of working as a cotton factor, Kibbee was elected to represent Pulaski County in the state legislature. When offered a compromise oath, Kibbee took it and resumed his legal practice in 1866. In 1870, Kibbee was elected to represent the 14th District of the Georgia Senate, which included the counties of Pulaski, Dooly, Wilcox and Dodge. After six years in the Senate as Chairman of the Committee on Finance, Kibbee returned home to practice law on a full time basis.

In 1884, Kibbee was elected as Judge of the Oconee Circuit, which then encompassed Pulaski, Dooly, Wilcox, Twiggs, Irwin, Telfair, Dodge, Montgomery and Laurens counties. After only four years on the bench, Judge Kibbee returned to his native home of Macon.

During his only term on the bench, Judge Kibbee rarely dawdled. In his first two years, he disposed of 2,282 cases in the circuit. During a two-week term of Laurens County Superior Court in 1885, Judge Kibbee heard sixty-four civil cases, ten criminal matters and entertained ten motions for writs of certiorari.

One of his most celebrated cases came in the summer of 1885. It seems that the losing candidates in the Dublin municipal election thought they had been cheated by the winning candidates who ran on the dry ticket. Those favoring the right to freely drink whenever and wherever they wanted to hired a team of lawyers and asked Judge Kibbee to invalidate the choices of the temperance crowd. The judge seemingly dodged a delicate political issue by summarily dismissing the case because the winners had already been sworn into office and the case was filed too late.

In an uncharacteristic moment, Judge Kibbee drew the ire of the populace of Laurens County. Many judges often find it difficult not to nod on the bench during a tedious line of questioning. Judge C.C. Kibbee was presiding at one 1887 term of Laurens Superior Court. Judge Kibbee did something much worse than sleeping on the bench. The Grand Jury publicly rebuked the judge for being drunk on the bench, according to T.B. Darly in his 1920 pamphlet, A Brief History of Laurens County, the Superior Court, and Dublin.

The judge also possessed a green thumb. He was praised in the newspapers in the summer of 1885 for his Russian sunflower which had a seed pod two feet in diameter and a total diameter of three and one half feet.

Judge Kibbee was an active member of the Masonic brotherhood. He was a member of Mt. Hope Lodge in Hawkinsville and the St. Omar's Commandery, Knight's Templar in Macon. In 1874 and 1875, the judge served as the grand master of the Georgia department of the International Order of Odd Fellows and represented the state at the national convention in Baltimore and Philadelphia in 1876 and 1877.

Charles Kibbee, son of John Morrison Kibbee of Concord, New Hampshire and Martha M. Graves of Sunderland, Connecticut, took the hand in marriage of Louie Taylor, daughter of Clinton Taylor. They had two daughters, Annie L. and Millie C. Kibbee.

Judge Kibbee died as the result of cancer on October 17, 1905 in Macon. Eulogized as one of Georgia's most able and scholarly jurists, Judge Charles Kibbee was funeralized at Saint Paul's Episcopal Church, where he was a member of the vestry. His body was buried in Riverside Cemetery in Macon.