In response to that requirement, Ray said he switched majors and "became a doctor of jurisprudence."
During eight years as district attorney and 12 as judge, Ray said he has handled about 19,500 cases in Palo Pinto County and credited the hard work of his support staff for his successes. He also said his predecessors set the stage for an effective local court system.
"The district judges of the 20th century and then my moving into the 21st century, the shortest period of time on the bench I think was 10 years," he said. "There's been stability in this court."
Of his career, Ray said he has realized "judging is something that involves not just being scholarly." He said his upbringing taught him two attributes needed by any effective judge.
"I was prepared adequately for the courtroom by my parents," he said. "My daddy taught me discipline – oh, did he teach me discipline – and my mama taught me compassion and I found a good helping of both is useful. In some cases you need and must give people a piece of your mind; in other cases you have to give them a piece of your heart."
As Santo attorney Mike Moore prepares to take over as district judge, Ray acknowledged his successor with some good-natured ribbing.
He recalled a recent incident just before he left to attend an event in Mineral Wells.
"Several people descended upon my office and said, 'The new judge is getting new paint and new carpet and a new computer and we need to measure,' and they kind of kicked me to the curb," he said. "Judge Cleveland was OK with the paint and carpet for 16 years and I've been OK with it for 12 years, now all of a sudden the new guy gets new paint and new carpet."
Ray also joked Burns is preparing him for retirement.
"I started noticing the district attorney's office that is responsible for printing the court orders, the judgements a the end of a case, started handing me orders to sign. It said, I kid you not, 'Signature line: Presiding Judge Mike Moore," Ray recalled.
Ray, who did not seek re-election, will continue to serve as district judge until his term expires Dec. 31.