Judge Clifton M. Kelly
Certain individuals cast a shadow larger than the shadows of average people. The Honorable Judge Clifton M. Kelly was one of those individuals. During his many years of service in the judicial system and later, as a tireless volunteer in projects for the public good, Judge Kelly crystallized the concepts that must prevail if a community is to become a safe, healthy, and productive place in which all children grow up to become contributing members of society. He understood that it is not enough simply to dream of a positive climate for inspiring the young. Adult citizens must act and cause others to act to “train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
In addition to serving 25 years as head of the Tenth District Circuit Court, Judge Kelly designed a crime prevention curriculum and textbooks still being used to teach children that crime produces consequences and that bad decisions…at any age…may prevent an offender from ever achieving his or her dreams.
But the Judge’s work was not limited to legal matters. He saw the need to create a caring community environment in which the well-being of children and families is fostered through strong human services agencies. He served on several boards, including a college, a public hospital, and a charitable trust. Whether in a meeting of a PTA, a Children’s Services Task Force, a truancy study group, a presidential search committee or serving as a mediator in a school expulsion hearing, Judge Kelly was consistent in expressing his core values: integrity, obedience, respect and personal responsibility.
Through many avenues he paved the way for countless other citizens to follow his lead. Although he passed away in 2005, his influence remains clearly evident in the work of the Champion for Children Foundation, and the Children’s Services Council. The annual Champion for Children Awards program identifies outstanding persons who agree with the Judge that investing in children and in youth is well worth the effort involved.
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