On June 9, something happened at Highland Park Town Hall that hasn’t happened in 45 years. Pat Robertson retired from his position to make room for a new town judge.
Al Hammack, who had served as town attorney for nearly 20 years, stepped into the position, with full knowledge of the shoes he had to fill.
“He truly acted justly, he loved mercy, and he walked humbly,” Hammack said.
Robertson is among the top five longest-serving municipal judges in Texas with his 45-year tenure. He’s also a lifelong Park Cities resident and Highland Park High School graduate.
As town judge, Robertson was responsible not only for overseeing court hearings and legal proceedings, but also arraigning detainees and working with law enforcement.
“It was absolutely an incredible experience,” Robertson said. “You go down to the jail and you never know what you’re going to run into.”
But no matter what situation arose, Hammack recalls Robertson treating each case with courtesy, understanding, and patience.
“He has a very comforting style that is not threatening at all,” Hammack said. “I know of many occasions when people were very upset and he was able to calm them down.”
Following his graduation from HPHS in 1954, Robertson attended Texas A&M University and later enrolled in the Marine Corps. He completed his law degree, married, and started his own family back in Highland Park.
During that time, he witnessed many changes to the town’s operations. Notably, he saw Highland Park’s fire, police, and paramedic departments unite in 1977 to become the Department of Public Safety.
“The police officers had to be triple-trained,” he said. “Of course, they’re all bright, degreed, young people.”
As for Hammack, he was selected for the position following closed sessions of the Town Council while members reviewed candidates.
A native of Highland Park as well, Hammack’s father served as mayor in the 1980s. Following his time as a felony chief prosecutor for Dallas County, he came into his position with Highland Park.
Oddly enough, Hammack sought Robertson’s counsel on career advice more than 20 years ago. Robertson advised him to pursue becoming town attorney.
“Soon thereafter, word went out that they were taking applications and considering candidates,” Hammack said. “Here we are 20 years later, and I get to follow the man that was so wise and so important to me.”
But he’s not the only one singing Robertson’s praises. Throughout Town Hall, many officials have memories to share regarding the judge’s dedication to the job.
“He is a great guy,” town spokesman Lance Koppa said. “Many times, I saw him early in the morning or late at night when he’d come in to arraign people.”
But for Robertson, it’s the work of the public safety department as a whole that makes the entire operation so special.
“It’s the safety and protection that these people enjoy,” he said of residents benefiting from service. “It’s like nowhere I’ve ever seen.”
This story appears in the August edition of Park Cities People, on stands now.