After 27 years on the bench, Georgetown County Chief Magistrate Isaac Pyatt will don his judge’s robes for the last time on Jan. 30. He announced his retirement earlier this month and his staff will hold a drop-in party for him on Jan. 26.
“I’ve been doing this for quite a long time now,” Pyatt said. “I love the work that I’ve done. I loved being a police officer. I love being a judge. And the time went by quick; I just don’t know where the time went. But I’m ready for something new now. I’ve been working toward it for pretty much the last year.”
As to what that something new is, he said he’s not sure yet. “I’ll be taking it day by day.”
The transition has given him plenty of opportunity to reflect on his 40 years of service to Georgetown County. A native of Sandy Island and a 1979 graduate of Howard High School, Pyatt was a young man when he joined the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office in 1983.
“They had an opening and I applied. Sheriff Michael Carter called me for an interview and hired me on the spot,” Pyatt recalled. “I worked as a deputy in the Pawleys Island, Litchfield and Murrells Inlet areas.”
He had studied at Morris College and Coastal Carolina University before obtaining a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Liberty University. Initially, he thought he might have wanted to be a teacher before deciding to try law enforcement.
At the Sheriff’s Office, he advanced up the ranks to Master Deputy, Investigator and Lieutenant. He worked as a narcotics investigator for a time, as well as the D.A.R.E. Officer when the program was introduced in Georgetown County. An acronym for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, the program brought law enforcement officers into elementary schools across the country in the 1980s and 1990s to warn about the dangers of drugs and educate children about how to resist peer pressure to engage in harmful behaviors.
Then, in 1996 he was appointed to the bench at the request of Yancey McGill and Greg Smith, state senators at the time. It was a smooth transition for Pyatt, who was 35. “I was ready for it,” he said. Working in law enforcement had tempered him to listen to all sides of a dispute, he told local media at the time.
He initially filled a county-at-large post before becoming Municipal Judge for the Town of Andrews. He had also served in the Army National Guard HHB, 4th Battalion 178th Field Artillery until retiring from that position in 2001. The following year he was appointed as Chief Magistrate for Georgetown County, a role he has proudly served in since.
Asked about some of the cases he has presided over throughout the decades, he said there have been plenty of interesting ones, including some that received national attention. “I can’t even recall half of them by now,” he said. Those aren’t the ones that stand out for him. More meaningful to him are the ones that may have never gained any public attention, but where he knows the action he took in the courtroom changed someone’s life for the better.
“I’ve had so many people who approached me and thanked me for intervening,” he said. “As a result of that, they are very productive citizens now. It’s good to feel like I was helpful and I have had a positive impact on my community and the people here.”
Community has always been important to Pyatt. He owns a home on Sandy Island where he grew up, and he and his wife Comeletia still attend church on the island. Comeletia is founding principal and executive director at Mingo Creek Academy, and Pyatt said he expects he’ll spend some time there helping her once he retires. He also has three children and three grandchildren he’d like to spend more time with.
As to the rest, “I’m leaving it open,” he said. “I’m not closing any doors, and I’m still going to be somewhat involved in the court system, but on a different level.”
But he said he also wants to spend time doing more things that aren’t related to the justice system.
“I want to go out and really enjoy life,” he said.
Judge Pyatt will be recognized by Georgetown County Council for his decades of dedication and service to the county at council’s Feb. 13 meeting. The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Howard Auditorium, 1610 Hawkins St.