VALDOSTA — The City of Valdosta confirmed that Municipal Court Judge Vernita Bender has died. In 2016, Bender was featured by the Judicial Council of Georgia as one of the most influential African-American judges in Georgia.
“Judge Bender leaves behind a legacy of outstanding leadership, public service, and memories that we will alwayscherish. She was a friend and mentor for City employees, as well as many Valdosta residents,” said City Manager Mark Barber. “Judge Bender had a huge heart for the community’s young people and was always a positive example in both her professional and personal life. Judge Bender loved her community and that was reflected in her work. Words are never enough in moments like this, but we want the Bender family to know that we are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers.”
JBender was appointed to serve as Judge of the Municipal Court for the City of Valdosta in August 2006. Her prior legal experience includes serving as a Judicial Clerk, legal counsel to a Housing Authority, Solicitor of the Municipal Court for the City of Valdosta, and an Assistant District Attorney. In addition, she maintained her own law practice prior to taking the bench.
Bender is credited with starting a Mock Trial Program in Valdosta, which is used as a teaching tool for students and allows them to act as jury in determining the guilt or innocence of the accused. The council of Municipal Court Judges recognized Bender’s work on the Valdosta Mock Trial Program with a Special Recognition Award in 2015.
“We are saddened to learn of the death of Judge Vernita Bender. On behalf of the City of Valdosta, City Council members, and the residents of Valdosta, I want to extend sympathy and prayers to Judge Bender’s family,” said Mayor Scott James Matheson. “The Valdosta community was fortunate to have Judge Bender. She cared deeply about our community and strived to make it better each day. We will sincerely miss Judge Bender and all that she brought to our court. Her model was compassion and empathy.”
Bender was born and raised in Moultrie. She is survived by her husband of 14 years, Tonero Bender, a longtime Moultrie resident, and her two precious sons Ethan, 10, and Aiden, 6.