Special Report: From the bench to the gridiron

Updated: Nov. 4, 2016 at 9:47 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Ever heard the saying that if you don't notice the referees at a football game, they must be doing a great job?

The court is now in session. The Honorable William C. Rumer presiding. Judge Rumer has been on the Superior Court bench since 2010 when he was appointed by the governor.

He practiced law for 35 years before that. Rumer has known since he was twelve years old that this is what he wanted to do. The inspiration coming from a book about an attorney you may have heard of, Abraham Lincoln.

"It was the traveling. They traveled the circuit. It talked about how the lawyers had the collegiality, and they would just go from one county seat to the next county seat," Rumer said. "They'd even share the bedrooms, and they'd share the boards, and they'd share the entertainment and they shared everything that they did in the courtroom. I just thought that was a great way to live. It was Abraham Lincoln."

Weekdays keep him busy at the courthouse, but every Friday he trades in his judge's robe for a set of stripes.

"I'm trying to do this like a supermodel and keep that 15-degree kinda slant so I look slender," Rumer said.

Rumer is now in his 12th year of officiating high school football games.

"After all of my children got done with school sports, nobody would go anywhere. I couldn't get anybody to go to a football game with me. I had always kinda wanted to be a football official, and I met somebody at a Christmas party, and I mentioned it to them," Rumer said. "They were an official. Then lo and behold about ten months later they gave me a call and said do you still want to be a football official, and I said yes I do. So I went to a meeting and I started, and it's now I'm in my twelfth season. Still going."

Rumer played football in high school. In fact, he gave all three major sports a try.

"In baseball, you know, I had speed. I had a real good glove, I could play shortstop. I really couldn't hit. I could steal bases. In basketball, I really wasn't all that good, but I could hustle," Rumer said. "So I hustled, and that got me ahead, but in football, I just felt like, you know, I could do this, and I got a lot of joy out of it and it wasn't as much hard work."

Rumer says players are surprised when they find out the side judge is a real judge. Ask him which profession he enjoys most, and Rumer will tell you he's fascinated by the law.

"I love going out there into the courtroom and presiding. You know I love the panoply, the festival of it," Rumer said. "There's just a beauty of  how it's conducted. I'm very traditional, and I run my courtroom that way. It's just, you're doing something for civilization.

"My position being a side judge, I'm a deep official on the visitor's side, and my key is the widest receiver. On the start of the play my first action is to take a step backward and look, and if it's going to be a pass play I'll start backing up," Rumer said. "Finally, about midway of that game, one of these coaches asked me, were you a cornerback? I told him that I was a cornerback. He said I could tell the way you were backing up that you were a cornerback, and I told him that was more than 50 years ago, but thank you very much. I appreciate it."

Rumer says his wife has always been supportive of his loves of both being a judge and of sports. She even leaves his favorite snack out for him after games.

"Typically, she's asleep when I get back, and she puts out my favorite meal, which is a peanut butter-banana sandwich on cinnamon bread," Rumer said. "So she'll put out the banana, she's got the peanut butter, cinnamon bread, she lays it all out for me. Sometimes I get a little note too."

So the next time you find yourself in Judge William Rumer's court, keep in mind that not all of his decisions are made from the bench. Some are made from the sidelines too.

So, who would you want to call your game? Probably someone like Judge Rumer, a man who makes his living by being fair.

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