Posted: 9:00 am Saturday, August 9th, 2014

How a survivor of Cambodian genocide became a rural Georgia judge 

By Jim Galloway

One day this December, 42-year-old attorney Meng Lim will pack up his two kids and a freshly pressed black robe.

Sixty miles later, at the state Capitol, Lim will be sworn in as the first Cambodian-American of Chinese extraction ever to sit on a Superior Court bench in Georgia.

The election of a survivor of Cambodian genocide to an open seat in the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit in west Georgia – a rural, two-county affair where Asian-Americans make up precisely .3 percent of the voting population – is perhaps the most remarkable, yet untold story to come out of last month’s runoff contests.

Cambodian-born Meng Lim, the newly elected Superior Court judge from Tallapoosa, Ga.

Cambodian-born Meng Lim, the newly elected Superior Court judge from Tallapoosa, Ga.

The Haralson County attorney won 62 percent of the vote in his July 22 runoff against Chuck Morris, a juvenile court judge from neighboring Polk County who had the support – financial and otherwise — of most of the area’s legal community.

Lim built his campaign largely on personal loans and the enthusiasm of a community that took him in as a 9-year-old boy who spoke no English and had never seen the inside of a classroom.

“I had really good, strong supporters who are passionate about me, and that was great,” said Lim, in an interview at his street-level office in slumbering, downtown Tallapoosa.

While Lim isn’t the first Asian-American elected to the bench in Georgia, he might be considered the state’s first Facebook judge. In a community where local newspapers come out once a week or not at all, Lim made extensive use of the Internet to offer up a remarkable, warts-and-all biography.

“He did a helluva job to get elected – the way he went about it. I look forward to seeing what he does in the position,” said Superior Court Judge Richard Sutton of Cedartown, whose pending retirement set off the first contest for an open judicial seat the circuit has seen in more than 30 years. (Departing judges usually do so mid-term, giving the governor a valuable appointment.)

Lim was born in Cambodia shortly before the 1975 takeover by the communist Khmer Rouge. The subsequent holocaust would claim 2 million lives.

His father was a school principal and thus a marked man in a regime that targeted intellectuals for extermination. Lim’s father went on the run, while Meng Lim, two older siblings and his mother were kept in separate concentration camps. An older brother who stayed with their father would die in the Cambodian forests of malaria.

There was no school for Lim – just unending work in the rice fields.

Ultimately, an invasion by Vietnam sent the Khmer Rouge packing. The reunited Lim family walked into Thailand and its refugee camps, where a Jewish organization sponsored the family’s resettlement in College Park.

But the Lims gravitated toward a local Baptist church whose pastor grew up in Haralson County on the Alabama border. With that connection, Lim’s principal-father and teacher-mother, neither of whom spoke a word of English, became custodians at the First Baptist Church of Bremen.

“The very first day I went to school I got into a fight,” Meng Lim remembered.

Small towns are a hard place to break into, even when you look like everyone else. But once they take you in, they don’t let go.

It was nearly a year before Lim spoke a complete sentence in English. A new Walmart had just opened nearby – and became a tool for building a vocabulary. “My teachers would take me, on their time — either after school or sometimes on a Saturday, and we would go to the store and they would point out different things and ask me to repeat it after them,” Lim said.

We often focus on the romance of walking stone-cold into a new country, but it is a soul-wrenching thing. The Lim family shattered under the pressure, and Lim became the foster child of his high school art teacher and his wife. Lim’s children, Elizabeth, 9, and Nicholas, 4, are named after them.

Meng Lim was a state wrestling champ and valedictorian of his Bremen High School graduating class. A scholarship sent him to Emory University, where he earned a degree in history and learned that he had developed an unusual Southern-Chinese accent. Another scholarship paved his way through Mercer Law School.

It was here that Lim’s journey took a more standard turn. After a year of clerking for local judges, Lim was hired by the law firm of House Speaker Tom Murphy.

“My Dad had an eye on Meng when he clerked. Dad had great expectations — he saw the potential in him. Meng’s a fearless worker,” said Mike Murphy, son of the late House speaker – and now a superior court judge who will be Lim’s partner on the Tallapoosa bench. “Talk about the great American success story.”

Mike Murphy’s wife, incidentally, was Lim’s debate coach in high school. It’s a tight community.

Lim now has his own private practice. He is the attorney for the Haralson County Commission, and does family law on the side. He is divorced, which he does not hide – that’s not possible in a small town.

menglimsnip

A Meng Lim runoff mailer, citing his brother Lymeng’s death.

On the other hand, in small communities, your fight often becomes that of your neighbors. Two years ago, Lim’s brother, 47-year-old Lymeng Lim, was killed in a car wreck. He was one of the few members of the U.S. Navy to have also carried an AK-47 for the Khmer Rouge. As a child-soldier — not by choice.

It took two years – just after the May 20 primary — for police to cite Sabrina Townes, 32, of Lawrenceville, for vehicular homicide. The arrest came only after she was involved in a second fatal accident.

Meng Lim made his crusade for justice part of his campaign for judge. A mailer in the runoff campaign featured a picture of Lim’s older brother, and this passage:

“I’m running for Superior Court Judge in the Tallapoosa Circuit because I believe that our community should be strong, [and] our judicial system fair and swift…Serving as your Superior Court Judge isn’t going to bring my brother back but it will help carry on his legacy of service, sacrifice, and courage.”

Lim’s victory party was held at a Mexican restaurant in downtown Tallapoosa. Afterwards, he drove to Atlanta – where his 93-year-old father lives in a Chinese-speaking enclave. (His mother still lives in Haralson County.)

“He immediately gave me as big a bear hug as he could muster. In all my life, I don’t recall ever receiving such an embrace from my father,” Lim wrote.

On Facebook, of course, for all his neighbors to see.

78 comments
JThos
JThos

BYoun, thank you for an informative post. Congratulations, judge! This man's success has NOTHING to do with race, religion, politics NOR being immigrant OR American-born. There are hard workers, slackers and criminals from ALL manner of people, from all eras of time and in every place.

BYoun
BYoun

Mr. Galloway--a slight correction. Mr. Lim is not the first elected Asian American judge in GA, that honor goes to DeKalb State Court Judge Alvin T. Wong, who was elected in 1998. Also, Judge Calra Wong McMillian serves on the GA Court of Appeals and was previously elected to Fayette County State Court. Mr. Lim does hold the great distinction of being is the first Asian American Superior Court Judge in GA, of whom we are incredibly proud.

Bernie31
Bernie31

Vladimir Putin speaks before the people: citizens in connection with the sanctions of the West, we will have to tighten their belts and work harder!
A voice from the crowd: "we will work in two shifts.
-Thanks, that's a true patriot of Russia! And we will have to abandon Western goods and food.
-We will work in three shifts.
-Thanks, Patriot of the motherland! By the way, where do you work?
-In the morgue.

So much for Republican  hollow claims of our MOSES  like President being Weak and Feckless!  The People of Russia are starting to Feel his wrath one Russian at a time. and so is Putin!

Bernie31
Bernie31

What say you so called Christian Conservatives of America who pretend to Love JESUS so much to say about yer LIES of this Amurican President being a MUSLIM. When have you ever SEENT a Muslin Leader go and protect a group of Christians Like you stuck on a Mountain without food,water or Shelter?
We have not seen such an Action since the days of.....I DARE to say.....MOSES! MOSES! MOSES! "Let My People GO!"

Where are ya yer DEMONS of Depravity and Moral conscience. Even now that yer SINS lay before you...You are still SILENT!

Silent as a Mouse on Peachtree street on a Sunday morning during Church Service in morning devotion!

Thank-you Mr. President for doing what these vile SINNERS would never do! 

Your WILL!

uh...huh.

FirstDerivative
FirstDerivative

Tell this story to African Americans who continue to believe that it is "the man's" fault.
 In fact, the drunken Ms. Sabrina Townes did reach out and "touch" Judge Lim's family.

td1234
td1234

This gentleman has lived an early life worse than anyone born in this country. Poor, no family, did not speak the language, in a poor county and had not even seen a classroom until he was 10 years old. 


He could have taken the route of whining, saying life is not fair and these obstacles are to great to overcome and would be either on welfare or in some low paying job but he did not. He overcame more than any native born citizen has ever had to overcome and is successful. 


This is the very reason I keep talking about education, developing job skills and working hard. Their are NO excuses for people not to be successful. All we have to do is to not allow them to become dependent on the government. 

Bernie31
Bernie31

@FirstDerivative - uh...huh The don't blame us ffer NUTHIN Crowd cause DAT is why we had JIM CROW to KEEP yer Black Arses from even thinkin of the American DREAM!


We Never wanted you to have the American DREAM...For we always believed that the American DREAM is fer the GOOD WHITE FOLKS only!


We would not let you get an education or learn a skill, we did not want you to have anything Good that would resemble a respectable Life. we wanted keep all of the Black Monkeys under foot and doin what ever we say whenever we said it.


We did not let them Vote or decide for themselves....We Hated them like no other and still do!


it was not our decision or Idea to give them FREEDOM! we Never wanted them to have FREEDOM or equality of any KIND! if dey get any dey will have to TAKE IT! cause we are goin to do everything in our POWER to keep them down, so we can blame them for their OWN FAILURE.


Praise Jaysus!

CherokeeCounty
CherokeeCounty

@td1234 And if you had any ability to see outside your blinders you would know that the government gave quite a bit of initial support to the Asian refugees we took in.

Kamchak
Kamchak

This is the very reason I keep talking about education, developing job skills and working hard. Their[sic] are NO excuses...

Oh, the irony!

BWAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Bernie31
Bernie31

@td1234 - But we are not going to mention that 100% Federal Handout provided for DECADES to these Poor people of Cambodia when they arrived in America. Like Free Housing, Healthcare, Wefare checks, Foodstamps, English speaking tutors for them and their Children, Clothing and a whole lot of assistance that People who think like you. Think American Children should not receive and DESERVE today!

You,Governor Yella Teeth and yer republican ilk  who Belong to the "American People Never Crowd" say Do nothing for these American BUMS!


Screw them...Take everything from them.


Then fall to your Knees as PIOUS Saints praying to the Demon below to provide you the Green Jesus you all worship till the end of time.


Yep if Black People were given the same type of support and encouragement and not the Racist, bigoted, prejudiced Heel of America and especially those in the South. yes we too would have more Judges,Lawyers, bankers, accountants, Doctors as well.


But through all of your RACIST IGNORANCE and your Love for everything Asian...You cannot see the OUTRAGEOS STUPIDITY of yer comment.


uh...huh.

FirstDerivative
FirstDerivative

@NWGAL @FirstDerivative 

You are deluded Gal.

Just look at every security precaution you take in your life- for your physical well being and property and see if it is not the African Americans you have in mind as the potential threat, and you will have your racist answer.

FirstDerivative
FirstDerivative

@Bernie31 Bernie. You need to rope in your hate for white people. The best way to do that is to have a consultation with your brain- if it is around.

FirstDerivative
FirstDerivative

@Bernie31 Bernie:

You are the African American's primary problem.  You are in denial. You have worn out the word racism, and now you have nothing left, but rants. Sensible people including black people are laughing at you. You are a wide area joke.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@CherokeeCounty @td1234 - Quite a BIT! Heck! we even gave on of them TD to MARRY and have Kids with!  Cause no American Woman would not live with a FOOL like TD!

Ain't dat right TD!

How dem Nail shops doin today? Makin a Killin as usual on a WEEKEND all day long. But I am not mad at ya!  Ya gotta git your'n where ya can. But you have NO Right to BLOCK other Americans from the same dream due to the station in life and where they were born.


PS You are still a LYING Sack of Meat with EYES!

td1234
td1234

@CherokeeCounty @td1234 The government gave no more to the refugees than it has to citizens but what you are missing is the support was temporary, limited and these refugees did not develop the entitlement mentality so therefore they took the necessary steps to become successful 


Look at this guy for a prime example: Came here at 9 years old, not speaking english, parents split, went into foster care and he STILL was able to pull himself up by his bootstraps and become a state wrestling champion and VALEDICTORIAN of his HS class. 


You can not tell me 2% of our current welfare class has been through 1/4 of what this man has been through. 


PROGRESSIVES need to get off their pity party "the poor can not make it" BS and demand people to take responsibility for their actions, to take responsibility for the investment we are making in them while they have nothing and to demand excellence.  . 



John53
John53

Meng Lim's family didn't get anythíng except what was provided to them by private citizens individually and through mission organizations. His parents worked ás custodians when thëy arrived here.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Bernie31 @td1234 Yes. And the same may be said of the Vietnamese "Boat-People" who came in the late 1970s.  Both were refugee groups after the Vietnam War, and this country took some responsibility in helping them to settle here.  NEITHER started from scratch here.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@FirstDerivative @NWGAL  " You are deluded GAL" GAL - a commonly known Racist Term used in refering to a Black woman of any AGE. no matter what!  A little girl-teenager- woman - older female.


I recently was out with My 91yr old mother in a store in Buckhead and a young white female approached My Mother and used that Term. For a moment I thought we were all going to Jail because MOM wanted to BEAT HER down to the RED MEAT! Becky in her ignorance broke down in Tears apologizing saying she was not aware of the offense of the term. I Bet she knows BETTER NOW!


I Dare you to say that to any Black woman's Face. but surely you will say you were only referring to her user name. Right!


uh..huh

NWGAL
NWGAL

@FirstDerivative, You really live in a bubble, inflecting your hobbled views on others. I am far more afraid of Republicans than ethnic minorities.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@FirstDerivative @NWGAL - God did not give YOU the SPirit of FEAR!

You got that Spirit of FEAR from SATAN! and you believe it, love it and hug it everyday!

If WHAT YOU SAY IS true then I should be trembling in FEAR at the MASS GENOCIDE White AMERICA PERPETRATED ON PEOPLE  OF COLOR FOR CENTURIES!

what group other than yours enslaved an entire Race of People, Raped, murdered, Abused, killed, shot hung tortured other Human Beings like the Good white people of America?

Answer that one for me SPORT?

It is I and others, who should be VERY AFRAID of you and yer INHUMANITY!

what assurance do I have you will not revisit your Barbaric ways again?

seems to me and many others the Republicans of this State and Nation want to enslave more than people of Color this time around. It seems it is Everyone who disagrees with yer SICK and demented thinking.

Praise Jaysus!


uh..huh

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@FirstDerivative It does seem to me as a white person that many of the comments on this blog are anti-black, and justify any "hate for white people" on the part of black bloggers reading them.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@FirstDerivative - I suppose you should be allowed to Let all of your'n Hang  out and say as you want with out a response...


Freedom you say fer you!


but NO Freedom for ME!

Typical Racist Republlican attitude!  You do not want to be told about what and how yew use yer GUNS!


But YEW want to tell women not to have Abortions! yet more Americans Die every year at the hands of GUNS far more than ABortions.


But in you and your distorted thanking you see no Hypocrisy in yer thinking. But cause you are a WHITE MALE, yew are Always RIIIIIITTTTE!

uh..huh



OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@td1234 @CherokeeCounty And how many of that "2% of the welfare class" come from upper-class families identified as "intellectuals" by their countries and thus persecuted? (A high-school principal would have been considered upper-class or at least upper middle-class.)  Until Ming Lim left Cambodia at around 10, this was his family identity.

CherokeeCounty
CherokeeCounty

@td1234 @CherokeeCounty And any support we give our own citizens is temporary and limited.

The gentleman's family used that support to get settled and started. You have called that 'evil' which simply shows the depravity of your soul.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@John53 But TD1234 was making a general statement comparing refugees and Americans living on welfare, to the detriment of the Americans. The fact remains that our government has and does provide assistance ("welfare," if you wish) to many refugees. And I wonder about that Jewish refugee organization that helped Meng Lim get from the Thai refugee camp to College Park:  did they receive any assistance from the U.S. government?  That too is common.

FirstDerivative
FirstDerivative

@Bernie31 @FirstDerivative @NWGAL Does not sound like you are preaching love to me. 

You sound like hate is the only education you have. You are frightful, and angry and probably a very dangerous black man.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@OriginalProf @FirstDerivative - First I have no Hate in my Heart for any of you. I am only describing YOU as everyone sees YOU except for you. who think you are WONDERFUL! but in reality you are a cruel,mean spirited and hateful People who pride themselves on the pain and suffering of others. 

While claiming to be the Christian loving Jesus folllowin People you know you Ain't!  but you continue with this line of BS like you have for hundreds of years and nothing has changed. Your Hatred for Brown People is as deep as it always has been. You can see it Clearly in yer mean spirited rhetoric,policies. platforms, statements, news release and the candidates you choose like the Mean ole SOB would be King fer another (4) four years.

td1234
td1234

@OriginalProf Oh, so only the children of upper class parents are capable of pulling themselves up and succeeding in this country? Children of poor parents can not be successful? 

td1234
td1234

@CherokeeCounty @td1234 When have I ever said government does not have any role in providing assistance? This article proves that the church would be a much better place to run the programs. 


It is evil for the government to turn its citizens into slaves of the state. Welfare programs should be very limited is scope and length of time with high requirements placed on the people that come for the help. 

td1234
td1234

@OriginalProf @John53 You are missing the point. 


Conservatives do NOT have a problem with the government giving temporary assistance to people in need. What conservatives despise is the attitude and the demand of progressives that people receiving a hand out does not have any responsibility to themselves or to the nation to work and personally improve themselves so that they can get off assistance in the shortest possible time and become productive members of society.   


I hear on the boards almost everyday that these poor people are there because they are discriminated against due to their race or gender or economic status so they can not be expected to succeed. That progressive story line is pure BS and propagates the problem. As I have said before this mentality of progressive does nothing but create a welfare, entitlement mentality in people, turns them into slaves of the government and is pure evil.  

CherokeeCounty
CherokeeCounty

@OriginalProf @John53 Most refugee organizations use government programs to provide initial help to their clients. I would bet these folks also did that.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@FirstDerivative @Bernie31 @NWGAL To this outsider reading this exchange, Bernie's "hate" seems to reciprocate what  you yourself show to him. It's like a ping-pong match---back and forth, back and forth....

Bernie31
Bernie31

@FirstDerivative @Bernie31 @NWGAL - I am sureI am a dangerous one to you....for surely you do not want to hear such TRUTHS!


ALL know you prefer the LIES and crimes of yer Yella Teeth KING who does not even give a pop about PO white Trash like you! 


A warning - Do not get SICK!  cause yer Yella Teeth Governor has no plan or desire to help PO white trash like you.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@td1234 @OriginalProf You're putting words in my mouth. Ming Lim had psychological advantages starting out that welfare children usually do not have. Such children do not usually have a family role model such as he did-- a village high school principal considered a leading "intellectual" by his country.  Remember that the father was persecuted BECAUSE he was seen as a member of the "intelligentsia." The son is going to identify with that group ever after...and now is a judge.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@td1234 @CherokeeCounty - But it is Ok to hire Asian immigarants to work in ye Nail shops and not pay them a living wage or provide them health insurance while you take home bags of money to your Asian Princess and prince and princess like children and have all of the pleasure of Life at their expense!.


we hear ya TD!

Bernie31
Bernie31

@td1234 @OriginalProf @John53 - You LIE! Conservatives do not Believe in Helping ANYONE but themselves! Take a look at what yer yella Teeth Governor has not done for the POOR & Needy!  NUTHIN!


Absolutely nuthin...even the Feds are on his BUTT now for being so slow on approving those who are legitimately in need and qualify for medicaid and foodstamps!


Govenor yella teeth says before we help dem..drug test them and make dem pay for it! Then I Might give dem somethin!


if dey get sick just tell'em to Pray to Jesus. maybe he will Help them cause I Satan....I mean Nathan ain't helping none of em!


Just listen to the loud applaluse from every Conservative republican in the state and Nation.  yer RIGHT Bernie!


we don't give a DAMN bout none of em...even YOU!

td1234
td1234

@CherokeeCounty Again you are missing the moral of the story. We should demand that all people receiving government assistance should work as hard as this man and do not take any excuses for not succeeding.  

Bernie31
Bernie31

@OriginalProf @FirstDerivative @Bernie31 @NWGAL - Exactly!  he shows his Heel and I will show him MY CRACK!

and its Dark Brown ready for his sweet Kissin!

td1234
td1234

@OriginalProf And then he had way more to overcome than the vast majority of the poor in this country. Did not speak English, did not attend school prior to age 10 and in fostercare. 


Point remains that it is post like yours that are making excuses for the poor and not demanding excellence that is the reason we have 20% of the population dependent on the government.  

td1234
td1234

@CherokeeCounty Then you need to look at what the Obama administration has done to Welfare reform and how progressives fight like hell everytime conservatives ask for work or education requirements should be added to means tested programs. 

Bernie31
Bernie31

@td1234 @Bernie31 - So I am an idiot and you are a Low waging paying, no insurance buying or benefit giving employer who takes all the profits for his Greedy self and I am the idiot?

what language is it you are listening too.....Thanngdangdanngkeennag,tangkangmicanededangdangng

I do Not know that one.....like YEW!


Bernie31
Bernie31

@td1234 @Bernie31 - Yes TD work them Asians into the ground and Give them nothing!  yes they are idiots fer for working fer ya. But I understand them...dey too have desires of the American DREAM. if that means slaving for you in one of yer many Nail shops until they get a plan and a way to get out and away from you. You and yer Asian wife would be the only one doing Nails today!


uh..huh

Kamchak
Kamchak

You are a[sic] idiot plane[sic] and simple. 

Oh, the irony!

Kamchak
Kamchak

"means tested"

It's like Frank's Hot Sauce.

td puts that $h*t on everything.

td1234
td1234

@Kamchak Means tested long term government programs is the reason this country is turning to "$h*t"

Bernie31
Bernie31

@td1234 @Bernie31 -You should help those whom you have lied fer to get a green card to work in yer Nail shops.


Kamchak
Kamchak

I will hire you...

You should hire a tutor to school you in the proper usage of to, two, too and their, they're and there.

Just suggestin'.