Valdosta Daily Times

June 26, 2013

Bailiff, 83, still in love with his job

Pittman shares inside knowledge

Jason Schaefer
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — A life of law enforcement wasn’t enough for Mitchell Pittman, who began working for the Valdosta Police Department in the early 1950s. At the age of 83, he is still serving and protecting as a bailiff for the Lowndes County court system.

Pittman served as a captain in the VPD, where he took the job when he was around 26 and worked for 37 years and seven months before retiring in 1991. He began working part-time at the old Lowndes County Courthouse and when he retired he “went on full-force doing bailiff work,” he said.

“It was something else to do, so I kept doing it,” Pittman said.

The jobs are “quite a bit different,” he said—at first locking up offenders and now watching them face the judges to receive their penalties and pay their fines—and most of the time his main responsibility is maintaining an ordered jury.

“We have to control the jury when they’re out on a case,” Pittman said. “Keep them from taking the evidence, keeping up with what they need. Whenever we have juries, we just work the juries; we don’t work the other courts.”

Jurors aren’t allowed to use phones and are required to remain orderly. Pittman, like other bailiffs, intervenes in the event of arguments.

“We’re there to help the judges hold court and take care of the jury people,” Pittman said.

Pittman works with two other bailiffs, Amos McCall and Louie Flythe, and the bailiffs are always backed up by Sheriff’s deputies, Pittman said. Among these individuals, the courtroom is usually well-controlled.

“Hardly anything ever happens in the courtroom,” Pittman said. “Years ago, over at the old courthouse, we had a man, he was highly on drugs, and we had to manhandle him, put the cuffs on him and take him to the hospital. That was about seven or eight years ago.”

Pittman enjoys his job and hopes to keep it for as long as the Sheriff’s Office is willing. Bailiffs are appointed by the Sheriff, and therefore his job is in jeopardy each time a new Sheriff is elected.

“But unless the new Sheriff wants to get rid of us, we usually don’t change that often,” Pittman said. “I always just liked to get up and go to work. I love my job. My health is holding up good, and I hope I can still continue.”