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Community Mourns Loss Of Judge Sugg

A funeral will be held Saturday at noon at Mt. Olive Baptist Church for the first African-American judge to preside in Halifax County.

Irvin Douglas Sugg Sr. died Friday at his home in Hampton. He was 93.

His wife and family members were with him at the time of his passing late last week, said a statement issued by the family.

The judge’s son, Irvin Jr., said Monday his father was a man who touched many lives.

“We have received an outpouring of concern and love for him. It’s overwhelming,” he added.

The general district court judge retired from the bench on Feb. 28, 1998 serving in the 10th Judicial District for 13 years.

Prior to 1985 when he accepted an appointment by Gov. Charles Robb to fill the general district court judgeship that opened with the retirement of Judge Robert Vaughan, Sugg served as a substitute district judge and a city judge in Halifax County and South Boston.

Sugg had been a lawyer in private practice in South Boston for 32 years before accepting the general district court judgeship.

The family issued the following statement:

Irvin Douglas Sugg Sr. was born on August 15, 1916 in South Boston.

“Doug”, as he was affectionately called, was the fourth of five children of Dennis N. and Edith Mae Sugg. His siblings, Irene, Lawrence, Charles (Chippie) and William (Bill), preceded him in death.

Judge Sugg attended elementary school at Matthew Hale Coleman Elementary School of South Boston, where his mother taught the fourth and fifth grade.

In 1930, he enrolled at Booker T. Washington High School in South Boston. At the age of 14, he won a new Hudson automobile by selling the most subscriptions to the Norfolk Journal and Guide.

In 1934, he graduated high school from Mary Potter Memorial School, a boarding school in Oxford, NC. That fall, he entered Virginia Union University in Richmond, where he studied history until 1940 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army.

Judge Sugg’s tour of duty with the Army lasted from 1940 to Nov. 21, 1944. He was stationed at Fort Belvoir, and later at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Upon moving to Washington, D.C., he reunited with his childhood sweetheart, Bernice Gertrude Humphrey of Semora, NC. They were married on June 16, 1942 at the Sugg family home in South Boston. This marriage produced five children: Norma Jean, Judith Kaye, Irvin Douglas Jr., Shirley Denise and Bryant Lee.

By the end of World War II, he attained the rank of technical sergeant that was only one promotion from master sergeant. He was honorably discharged on Nov. 21, 1945 having earned the American Defense Campaign Ribbon and the Good Conduct Medal.

Judge Sugg and family moved back home to South Boston where he worked with his father at the Piedmont Grocery Company (his father’s store). He was also a professional photographer and real estate investor.

In January of 1946, he and a group of black businessmen including his father purchased the Patterson Hotel Building on lower South Main Street, South Boston.

Between 1952 and 1953, Judge Sugg earned his BS degree in history from Virginia Union University and his bachelor of laws from North Carolina College School of Law (now North Carolina Central University Law School) in Durham, N.C., from which he graduated Cum Laude.

He passed the Virginia State Bar exam early, during his second year of law school, and became a member of the Virginia Bar Association.

In 1953, he opened his own law practice in South Boston, where he practiced successfully for 32 years.

Doug was the first black lawyer to practice law continuously in Halifax County. He was appointed commissioner in chancery by the circuit court.

In 1975, he was appointed by the City of South Boston as substitute city court judge.

In 1978, he was appointed substitute general district judge for the 10th Judicial District. He served as substitute judge for both of these jurisdictions until 1985.

In 1985, Doug reached an historic milestone, when he was appointed by Governor Charles Robb as general district judge for the 10th Judicial District for a six-year term, becoming the first black judge of this district. This district includes Halifax and Mecklenburg Counties.

In April 1991, he won a precedent-setting court case against the state of Virginia allowing him to work past the mandatory retirement age and serve another six-year term.

The Honorable Judge Sugg retired from the bench on Feb. 28, 1998.

Judge Sugg has a long list of personal and professional accolades including, but not limited to, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity (where he was the longest standing member of Zeta chapter’s 90 year history); Free and Accepted Mason, Prince Hall Affiliation; member, Halifax County School Board; South Boston Planning Commission, and member of Mount Olive Baptist Church.

Judge Sugg was an avid reader and had a photographic memory. Judge Sugg was a horse enthusiast and enjoyed photography, watching the news, smoking his pipe, vacationing at the beach, roller coasters and his long evening walks.

His favorite pastime, however, was spending time with and dispensing wisdom to his large and loving family.

Judge Sugg, who was affectionately known as “Papa” by his family, passed away at his home in Hampton on Friday, July 9, at 1:40 p.m. at the age of 93, surrounded by his wife and loving family.

Judge Sugg is survived by his adoring wife of 68 years, Bernice Humphrey Sugg; their five children, Norma Jean Whitted (George), Judith Sugg Scott, Irvin Douglas Sugg Jr. (Frances), Shirley Denise Scott (Jon) and Bryant Lee Sugg (Lynn); fourteen grandchildren, Cassandra, David, Angela, Carmen, Wendy, Nichole, Michelle, Michael, William, Jocelyn, Jaielle, Jon, Leigh and Dennis; 15 great-grandchildren: Chanel, Alexis, Ciara, Zachary, Zoe, Jason, Dennis, Chloe, David, Ella, Alexandra, Julian, Jordan, Trevor and Rachel; brother-in-law Robert Humphrey; nephew Lawrence Edwin, niece Diane and a host of extended family and friends.

Sugg will be buried in the Rose Garden Cemetery with military rites Saturday afternoon.

Visitation for friends will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Jeffress Funeral Home chapel.