Local News

Lawyers, court staff shave heads to support Wilson judge fighting cancer

Posted January 27, 2017 6:49 p.m. EST

— Some court hearings in Wilson County have become head scratchers in recent weeks, populated with bald lawyers, judges and court staff.

"They all look better than I do even with their hair cut off," District Judge John Covolo said.

Covolo was the inspiration for the move toward bald justice. The 65-year-old, who has been on the bench for a decade and worked as a prosecutor in Wilson for 20 years before that, was diagnosed last fall with bladder cancer. As he underwent chemotherapy at Duke University Medical Center, he decided to shave his head.

"Physically, sometimes, it hits you, and it’s kind of like the fog rolling in," he said.

Then, one by one, his male colleagues shaved their heads in support of him, while women in the courthouse cut their hair shorter.

"We’ve known him a long time, and he’s been a great friend. Our feeling was, if we could bring a smile to his face, it’s worth it," said Albert Thomas, an attorney and former judge in Wilson. "When he first walked in and saw it, he broke out laughing, and it was worth it."

"Full disclosure, I've never had a lot of hair," defense attorney Brian Paxton said with a laugh. "(We wanted) just to show him we stand in solidarity with him. Sometimes you just need to know someone's with you."

"If cutting my hair today, tomorrow or the next day brings any measure of warmth to him, hey, I’ll do it over and I’ll do it over and I’ll do it over," Superior Court Judge Toby Fitch said.

Known as tough but fair on the bench, Covolo at times is speechless when it comes to all of the support.

"It’s touching of them to do that," he said, choking back tears. "Why can’t we do something about (cancer)? That’s what this is all about – it's an awareness, it’s not about me."

The judge said he's trying to remain positive in his cancer battle.

"You have to have faith," he said. "I think God has the remote control on this one."

Fitch and others said they are confident Covolo will beat the disease. In the meantime, they said, they will continue to support him.

"The world needs a little goodness like this to show we stand with our friends," Paxton said. "When you’re with someone every day, in the trenches with them, how do you not support them? It’s what you do."