Judge Melford Oliver “Buddy” Cleveland

Published 4:07 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Judge Melford Oliver “Buddy” Cleveland

Mar, 4, 1924 – Feb. 3, 2023

After more than 98 years of living life to the fullest, Judge Melford Oliver (“Buddy”) Cleveland of Wilton, AL, passed away peacefully on February 3, 2023. He is survived by his wife, Mary Carolyn Gibbs Cleveland, his children, Grover Cleveland of Seattle and Sarah Cleveland of New York, his grandchildren, Richard Tudden­ham and Electa Cleveland, and his former wife, Marcia Barrett Cleveland, along with extended family and countless friends.

Born on March 4, 1924 to Walter Frances Cleveland and Grover Lafayette Cleveland, Judge Cleveland was a role model for hard work and a voracious reader, committed to education for himself and others, and to learning and growing throughout his life. He cherished our natural world and learned about astronomy and geology. He loved children and animals; music set his foot tap­ping, and he played the harmonica with zeal. Ever curious, he trav­eled to new countries well into his 90s.

As a farmer, lawyer, Judge and a lifelong “Yellow Dog Democrat,” Judge Cleveland devoted his life to fighting for underdogs. He wanted to be known for raising great children and helping “poor souls who had never seen the inside of a courtroom.” He epito­mized industry and perseverance and had no patience for sloth. At a young age, he lost his own father and saved the family farm in Shelby County from foreclosure. He went on to the University of Alabama and Yale Law Schools and clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black. He then entered a career devoted to public service as a lawyer for twenty years in the U.S. Justice De­partment and then as a Judge with the federal Social Security Administration. He ultimately served as President of the Associa­tion of Administrative Law Judges, where he fought to preserve judicial independence.

A child of the Great Depression, Judge Cleveland had deep em­pathy for others and was committed to fair play and racial jus­tice. In a world in which it is easy to compromise one’s values, he stood firm and charted his own course with a sure inner compass. Friends and family will remember his generosity, his sharp mind, his mischievous wit and charm, his strong work ethic, and his tire­less devotion to family and the family farm.

The family will be holding a memorial service to celebrate the life of Judge Cleveland on April 1, 2023 at 4 p.m. at the Anna Irvin Din­ing Hall of the University of Montevallo, 1 Vine St., Montevallo, AL 35115. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the “Head/Cleveland Scholarship” at the University of Montevallo (giving@montevallo.edu) at https://www.montevallo.edu/give/scholar­ships-giving/ or by mail to: University of Montevallo Foundation, Station 6215, Montevallo, AL 35115.

Fond memories and expres­sions of sympathy may be shared at www.rockcofuner­almontevallo.com for the Cleveland family.