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Robe finds its way home after 20 years

by F.T. Norton

It’s been 20 years since Justice of the Peace Tom Davis died of pancreatic cancer.

In the offices of justice court judges Robey Willis and John Tatro Monday, Davis’ children accepted the black robe Davis wore during his many years on the bench.

“When I started, that was the robe I wore,” Tatro said to Davis’ children Katie Larkin, Jeri Matthews and Jess Davis.

A closet cleaning in the courthouse last week revealed the robe in a box. Tatro realized the “T.D.” on the inside collar stood for “Tom Davis.”

“I thought it would be nice to give it to you,” he told the children.

On Friday, his clerk placed a few calls before landing Larkin on the phone and telling Davis’ youngest child they had a gift for them.

She in turn called her siblings, with Jess Davis coming from San Francisco for when the robe was turned over.

“This is great because we don’t have many mementos of his,” Larkin, 38, said.

Davis took the bench in 1970 as a juvenile magistrate. He moved into the justice and municipal courts, where he served until he resigned three months before he died on Nov. 6, 1983.

Jess Davis, 41, remembers a banjo-playing father who was no-nonsense in the courtroom. “Once he duct-taped someone’s mouth shut,” he recalled.

“That was before it was politically incorrect to do that,” Larkin chimed in, laughing.

“He was a legend known for his common-sense justice,” Tatro said.

Jeri Matthews, Davis’ oldest child, is the keeper of the family heirlooms, all three agreed.

The Sparks elementary school teacher plans to have the robe put into a shadow box, then the siblings will share it, perhaps trading it off year after year.

“This is very touching for us. It’s been 20 years, but it doesn’t feel like that to us. It feels like it’s just been yesterday” Larkin said. “It’s heartwarming they’ve taken the time to find us. This means a lot.”