Floyd County lost a public servant who had served the county for decades.
James R. Allen, 77, of Prestonsburg, died on Oct. 26. He spent more than three decades in public service.
He served as county attorney for four years, commonwealth’s attorney for 12 years and district judge for 16 years.
Circuit Court Clerk Doug Hall, who has known Allen since the 1980s, described him as “understanding,” “stern” and “compassionate.”
He said Allen was a “fair and impartial judge” who “did the right things” and “set a tone” that is still observed today at the judicial center.
“I think he kind of set a tone of the way our judges do now,” Hall said. “You know, Judge Hall and Judge Marcum came in after him ... I think they kind of followed in the ways that he set, as far as being open to the public. In a lot of counties, it’s hard to get in to see a judge or talk to a judge one on one ... But he always had an open door policy.”
Hall explained that by keeping his door open and remaining accessible to the public, Allen did not let the power he had behind the bench affect the way he treated people.
District Judge Jimmy Marcum credits Allen for guiding him during his early days on the bench. Marcum was sworn into office in 2011, after Allen retired. He said Allen also served as his football coach at Prestonsburg Elementary.
“I was lucky, to be honest with you, to have him and Judge (Eric) Hall to work under. I mean, they’re both wonderful family men. They’re both men of character and they’ve done this job ... I couldn’t have two better teachers and role models, to be honest with you. I stepped into a wonderful situation,” Marcum said.
He said Allen never held a grudge and that he knew troves of Floyd County families.
“You’ve got to have big shoulders and thick skin and he was always real good at that,” Marcum said. “I mean, even if somebody was talking about him or was against him, he always tried to work with them. He never held a grudge like that ... And it amazed me, the name recognition that he had with people, not that they knew him, but that he knew everybody. Everybody that come in here, he knew how they were related, and who their family was, and he used to amaze me with that kind of stuff all the time.”
He said one of the biggest lessons that Allen taught him was “just to do the right thing.”
“My daddy told me that, too, before I started here, but I watched Judge Allen put it in practice,” Marcum said. “You know, what’s right today will be right tomorrow. If you always do the right thing, it’ll turn out right.”
District Judge Eric Hall met Allen when he was “pretty fresh out of law school.” He said when he became a judge in 1998, Allen — who was already on the bench — helped guide him.
“When I came on board, I hadn’t really done that much in district court, so I was pretty green,” Hall said. “He helped me with the multiple procedures of district court. I sat through his court and watched how he did all the things that district judges do, and he pretty much set the tone for me.”
Hall also noted Allen’s open door policy.
“If you go away from here, if you go to Lexington, Louisville, the metropolitan areas, you don’t get in to see a district judge,” he said. “You have to go to court, and there’s no one-on-one contact. Here, we don’t have any problem at all seeing people, taking care of their problems, doing will probates, you name it, doing the things we do. And Judge Allen was part of that.”
He described Allen as “down to earth.”
“He was a judge, but he didn’t act like a judge when it came to dealing with people,” Hall said.
Allen leaves behind his wife, Rita Goble Allen, three daughters: Amy Allen (Brent) Rose, Robyn (Carl) Bingham and Alison May, all of Prestonsburg, as well as his sister Sonia B. Nunnery and eight grandchildren. Funeral services were held Monday at Allen First Baptist Church. He was buried in the Guyles Allen Cemetery under the direction of Hall Funeral Home.