By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher
Governor Robert Bentley appointed Julia ‘Judy’ Burke Spree to be the Probate Judge of Greene County effective Friday, September 16, 2016. Spree will be sworn in on Thursday at 6:00 PM at the William M. Branch Courthouse.
Spree will serve out the remaining term of Judge Earlean Isaac who retired in August, after serving 47 years in the office of Probate Judge, the last 27 as the Probate Judge. District Judge Lillie Osborne has served as Probate Judge in the interim period.
Spree, in an interview with the Democrat, said, “My education and life experiences have prepared me to serve as Probate Judge. I am willing and happy to learn from reading materials, looking at webinars, consulting with other probate judges and the current staff in the office to do the best possible job for the people of Greene County.”
Spree said that she did not intend to run for the position when her term ends. “ I hope to be a fair and good judge for all the people of Greene County.” She also said that she would retain the current office staff because everyone she has spoken with has told her that they are doing a great job.
The Probate Judge’s office maintains the official records of the county – such as deeds, mortgages, marriage licenses, car titles and other records. The Probate Judge is also involved in deciding probate issues for citizens who die with or without a will. The Probate Judge also grants adoptions; appoints and can remove guardians for minor children and incompetent or incapacitated adults; conducts hearings on committing persons with mental health problems; to hear and decide on petitions for condemnation of privately owned land; and hear and decide name change and legitimization petitions.
Some Greene County political observers commented that Governor Bentley has appointed a white person to serve in a position held by Black people since 1970, in a county that has a majority Black population.
In his appointment letter, Bentley states, ”This position comes with great responsibility because you will be making important decisions that affect the citizens of Alabama. Honesty and integrity are two virtues that I prioritize for my Administration to exemplify… I encourage you to be a good steward of taxpayer’s money and work to maintain the trust that I, and the people of Alabama have in you.”
Spree was born in Roanoke, Alabama but spent her early years in Talladega and then moved to Jackson, Alabama where she graduated from high school. She attended Livingston University (now University of West Alabama) and graduated with a B.S. degree in Physical Education and Recreation.
She worked briefly with Delta Airlines as a flight attendant and then joined the Peace Corps, where she served for two years in teacher training in Bandar Abbas, Iran. Upon returning from the Peace Corps, she enrolled at Auburn University to get an M.Ed degree in Guidance and Counseling while teaching Special Education in Lagrange, Georgia.
Judy also worked at the Alabama Department of Human Resources, West Alabama Mental Health, United Cerebral Palsy and other programs, which gave her experience with some of the family issues she will be dealing with in the Probate Judge’s office. Her most recent employment for the past nine years has been as the Greene County agent for ALFA insurance.
Judy is married to Robert Thetford ‘Thed’ Spree, a leading catfish farmer in Greene County. They have three children – Sage, Mary Kennon and Kee – and five grandchildren.