When you think of St. Clair County Circuit Judge Milton Wharton, adjectives spring to mind: Passionate. Compassionate. Thoughtful. Ethical. Humble. And most of all, fair.
Wharton retires this month after more than three decades on the bench, and it truly will be difficult to fill his shoes. He spent his career trying to apply the law for just outcomes for both victims of crime and the perpetrators. He gave criminal defendants breaks when he thought they would take advantage of a second chance but wasn't afraid to hand out harsh sentences when justified.
He regularly looked beyond the courtroom walls at the causes of crime and other problems and worked to help find solutions. He often steered troubled youths to Boy Scouts and other positive, structured activities. He helped found Racial Harmony to address racial tensions in Belleville. He stressed the value of education, with special attention to closing the achievement gap between white and black students.
We didn't always agree with Wharton's decisions in the courtroom, but we never doubted his sincerity in trying to make the right calls.
Good luck to Wharton as he gets ready to begin the next chapter of his life.