Rounette Johnson/For the Times
by 15th Circuit Judge Ben Culbertson.
As Judge Gwendolyn R. McNeil prepared to become the first African-American woman to serve as a magistrate in Georgetown County, she said she was “very excited and honored to serve in this capacity.”
“I ask God for an understanding to judge the people, that I may discern between good and bad,” she said.
Senator J. Yancey McGill appointed McNeil as the first African-American woman magistrate in Georgetown County.
McNeil will fill the vacancy of Judge Benjamin Dunn who retired as a magistrate of Andrews after 19 years.
McGill also appointed Chief Magistrate Isaac L. Pyatt as a magistrate in 1996.
The swearing in ceremony of McNeil took place at the Georgetown County Judicial Center Friday.
McGill, state senator of District 34, spoke highly of McNeil as he gave his remarks.
“Today marks a historical moment,” McGill said. “This is a moment we need to remember because history is being made.”
He said six people applied for the job, and all the résumés were “great.”
“But Gwendolyn McNeil’s Christian strength made more difference to me,” McGill said. “Her love of the Lord, love of the community and she has dealt with a lot of young people.”
He went on to say that when you judge people you have to know all the facts.
“Pray for Judge McNeil because she has to make some tough decisions,” McGill said. “46 members out of 46 members voted for her — nothing more than the power of the Lord.”
Administration of oath was conducted by Judge Pyatt.
McNeil was sworn in with her husband, James, by her side.
John Benso was sworn in Thursday as a Georgetown County magistrate.
With friends, family and other local judges present, Benso took the oath of office in the presence of 15th Circuit Court Judge Ben Culbertson.
Benso will take the place of Judge William Moeller as the magistrate for Murrells Inlet.
“I am ready to get started,” Benso said after the swearing in ceremon, also held in the judicial center.
“I look forward to it and anything I can do I am happy to do. If you see me going astray, I am always open to suggestions.”
Chief Magistrate Isaac Pyatt, who was present during the ceremony, welcomed Benso to the bench.
“I hope you are ready to work,” Pyatt said. “I will make sure I am available if there is anything I can do to help you.”
Benso has been a lawyer in Pawleys Island for 18 years.
He’s 60 years old and his wife Helen is vice president for marketing at Brookgreen Gardens.
Benso graduated from the University of Michigan and went on to attend the University of South Carolina’s business school.
He also received his law degree from USC.
By Clayton Stairs and
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