Position: County Court Judge for Gilpin County (CO), First Judicial District.
For me, history was never inconsequential names or meaningless dates, written in the pages of books that I was forced to read under penalty of my teachers’ wrath and my parents’ displeasure. Instead, from the time I could understand words, I was blessed with parents who were able to spark an interest which became a passion – I was the six year old standing on the ramparts at Yorktown trying to imagine what it was like, thinking that I had been born two hundred years too late. My interest steadily grew as I approached college, and by the time I was a sophomore at Mary Washington, my horizons had broadened from standing at Yorktown to standing in the Roman Forum, thinking I had been born two thousand years too late. So, majoring in history was an obvious choice – do what I loved, and it would be easy.
In many ways, it was easy. The reading required of a history major was never a chore; the writing was, frankly, enjoyable. What I didn’t realize, however, was how well this field of study, accompanied with a substantial volume of coursework in the classics, would prepare me for choices yet to be made. Everything from reading massive volumes in a short time to scrupulously citing sources became familiar work, with the overall workload in law school and beyond seeming small by comparison.
More importantly than any of the technical aspects, however, majoring in history at Mary Washington greatly deepened my pre-existing appreciation for our past. Through the history classes I took, particularly those taught by Porter Blakemore, I became convinced that history is nothing but a chain of dominoes: the fall of a long-forgotten domino will always echo in the continuing fall of future dominoes, even far down the chain.
Ultimately, the law is a collection of lessons learned from our collective experience as humans, and understanding those experiences – how the dominoes fell – is of fundamental importance to understanding the law. For instance, our Bill of Rights has its origins in fifteenth and sixteenth century England – it is intended to prevent the terrible excesses that some of our ancestors experienced in that time. Our Constitution’s roots are even deeper.
I write this having been appointed as a judge, which is hopefully the start of a long career. Our judiciary is given tremendous power and, as the saying goes, with power comes responsibility. Law school taught me what to do as a judge. Majoring in history, however, gave me the tools and perspective to learn – for myself – the why behind the what; majoring in history has taught me the incredible truth in that saying.
It also bears mentioning that at thirty-four, I am still the six year old standing on the ramparts at Yorktown, wondering what it was like.
**Photo: David Taylor (right) is also a volunteer Fire Lieutenant and wildland Squad Boss with the Clear Creek Fire Authority. Shown here with District Judge Russell Granger (left) of the 5th District, a long-time volunteer firefighter, and Taylor’s boss for 8 years.