Judge Joseph Franklin Gilliland, of Russellville, Ala., died on Sunday, March 23, 2014.
He was born on November 25, 1940, in Sylacauga, Ala. After high school, he received a bachelor's degree from Jacksonville State University, where he was known to everyone as "Coosa Joe." He taught high school for five years and then went back to school, first to Louisiana State University
, where he earned a master's in constitutional law, and then on to Alabama Law School where he earned a juris doctorate. After receiving his law degree, he clerked at the Court of Criminal Appeals in Montgomery before moving to Franklin County in 1972 to become an attorney. He then served as district court judge for Franklin County. Following that, he taught as an adjunct professor at Northwest Community College. He later served as a judge for the Social Security Administration in Montgomery before transferring to the Florence, Ala., office. His final position was Hearing Office chief law judge for the Social Security Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in Florence, Ala.
Some of the great loves of his life were those of beauty, compassion, flowers, art and music. His many club memberships and years of volunteer service reflected those loves. He was integral to the formation of the Art Council of Franklin County and to the existence of Project Help. He used his musical talents frequently over the years as the organist and choir director of First United Methodist Church, Russellville, and also as organist at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church. He took great delight in playing the piano each week for the Earnest Workers Sunday school class and was instrumental to the acquisition of the beautiful organ at First United Methodist church, Russellville.
He was very active in the Master Gardeners Club and was known far and wide for his gorgeous roses. He also loved a good game of bridge, sunsets, fall leaves, traveling, befriending strangers, Snickers candy bars, showing kindness, shocking folks with hilarious comments, finding the upside of every situation, and eating cheese biscuits on Saturday mornings. He delighted in people - having old friends and making new ones all the time.
In the last decade of his life he struggled through many health crises. In spite of all of these challenges, the love for his family and work gave him the strength to battle the setbacks with ferocity and a valiant determination.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 46 years, Sue Smith Gilliland; and daughters, Ann Gilliland Barlow (Jon), of Starkville, Miss., and Deana Gilliland Heath (Ezra), of Vestavia Hills, Ala. He had six grandsons, James, Nathan, Charlie and Eli Barlow, and Harrison Joseph and Michael Gilley Heath. He was preceded in death by his sister, Elizabeth McGrady, and brother, Buddy Gilliland. His remaining siblings are Virginia Hughes, Donald Gilliland (Marie), Robert Gilliland (Gail) and Jimmy Gilliland (Mildred). He leaves many nieces and nephews. His friends are legion.
His family would like to express sincere gratitude to the outstanding nurses in the ICU ward of ECM Hospital, Florence, and to Drs. Paul, Holden and Lango.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Building Fund of First United Methodist Church, Russellville, or to the Russellville Public Library.
On Tuesday, March 25, visitation will be held from noon until 2 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, Russellville, with the funeral following at 2 p.m. He will be buried in a private service at 5 p.m. in Holly Pond, Ala.
To everyone who ever asked how he was, he always replied, "I'm beautiful, of course!"
He was right.
Pinkard Funeral Home, Russellville, will be directing.
Condolences may be left at pinkardfh.com.