Petri Hawkins-Byrd is known as the stern-looking bailiff who has kept order as Judge Judy’s partner in court (not crime) for over 16 years. He’s a husband, father of four, motivational speaker and mentor and he’s serious about making a positive difference.
Having grown up in the inner city, Byrd realizes the long-term impact a good role model can make. He shares, “How we view the world and ourselves is somewhat determined by what we see and hear. Our show has an estimated 10 million viewers daily and definitely impacts our audience. My friend always says ‘Every man can be a role model, even if it’s to set a bad example.’ It’s my desire and duty to be a positive role model as a Black man.”
With a passion for youth, Byrd worked in a daycare, ran a community center, taught children’s church, served as a high school campus supervisor and drove a school bus. He is currently Chairman of the National Board of the OK Mentorship Program and he’s on the Board of Teen Center USA, a faith-based youth organization in Elk Grove, CA. Byrd also travels and speaks to youth groups across the country.
His mantra is “To whom much is given, much is required” and he goes on to say, “I was given life and a purpose by God. The very best I can do is live and fulfill that purpose. I need to be a friend to the friendless, a father to the fatherless and a sign of hope to the hopeless. Plus, as Gandhi said, I’ve got to ‘be the change I want to see in the world’.”
While he appears hard and unsympathetic as he calls and watches over cases, Byrd’s heart towards people is quite the contrary. Out of uniform he’s casual, jokes around and flashes a big smile. It’s such a contrast that people aren’t really sure it’s him! He says when older viewers realize who he is they tell him, “Baby, you got nice teeth. You should smile more!” and he responds “Yes ma’am, I’ll try to do that…more.”
Enjoying plays, jazz concerts and museums, he loves visiting various destinations but can do without the hassles of traveling. His guilty pleasure is ”facebooking” and free time is spent listening to music, writing poetry, playing scrabble, chess, and watching TV One’s ” UnSung”.
When asked about his role models, Byrd says, “My mother, who taught me that no matter how little we have, there’s always room for one more, my Uncles Butchy and Wallace who taught me how to hug and say ‘I love you’, and all my brothers who help me stay accountable and remind me of the things in life that are truly important.”
President and First Lady Obama are on his list of people he hopes to meet. “I think they are the epitome of elegance, grace, intelligence and family honor in our community.”
Byrd is known all over the world and while his role on Judge Judy appears limited, it is extremely pivotal. When he was younger he actually wanted to become a comedian/actor. However, exposure to the injustices that spawned the Civil Rights Movement inspired him to want to become a lawyer and became the impetus that caused him to study criminal justice.
Thank goodness for the turn of life’s events that transformed him into a positive force in the earth. Real Cases. Real People. Bailiff Byrd.
by Tanya LaNice