Lawyering was always in John Bord’s blood. He just didn’t realize it.
After a successful run as a talented college football player—inducted into the athletic hall of fame at both Potomac State Junior College and Washington and Jefferson College—Bord ’83 turned to coaching football at the college level.
“I really enjoyed it,” recalls Bord. “But after a couple of years, I grew weary of all the other aspects of being associated with college coaching, which aren’t related to coaching at all.”
Realizing that, Bord’s father, a lawyer for more than 50 years, invited his son to shadow him to see if he liked the practice of law.
“Within six months I was sold on the idea of being a lawyer,” remembers Bord.
Bord took some graduate classes at West Virginia University (WVU), to get himself back into a studying routine, and started looking at law schools. He also completed a spell as a small claims court magistrate.
“That just intensified my desire to go to law school and to become a lawyer,” says Bord.
A professor at WVU recommended that Bord speak to one of his former students who had just graduated from California Western, and after talking with him, Bord was convinced.
“I loved traveling,” says Bord. “I had never been out West, so the thought of going to school in San Diego really appealed to me. I applied and was accepted.”
Despite the culture shock of moving from a town of 6,000, Bord thoroughly enjoyed his time in San Diego and is full of praise for Cal Western.
“The legal education I received was excellent,” states Bord.
However, the call of home was strong, and after graduating Bord returned to Grafton, West Virginia, to practice law with his father.
“When I got home I was more prepared to practice law than almost all the new attorneys I was around. My father threw me in against veteran attorneys to test my abilities, and I held my own.”
But what Bord really wanted to be was a prosecutor, and in 1984 the current circuit judge asked him to be his assistant prosecutor.
“Today I’m the second oldest sitting prosecutor in the state experience-wise,” says Bord.
Throughout his career, he has served on committees and boards to reform the criminal justice system in West Virginia both on the adult and juvenile level, representing the state’s prosecutors. He currently serves as Chair of the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute Board of Directors.
In terms of day-to-day work, the circuit Bord works in is the busiest per capita in the state. His office has a 96 percent conviction rate and has never had a conviction overturned by the West Virginia Supreme Court.
The increasing workload led the legislature to add a new circuit court judge, and Bord had the distinction of being the first attorney in his local Bar association to be approached with the opportunity. He turned it down.
“I enjoy the work I do,” says Bord. “I like being in a courtroom, but the idea of sitting on a bench and being a referee has never appealed to me.”
Bord has prosecuted murder cases, sexual assaults, bank robberies, armed robbery and more than his fair share of drug cases. One of the highlights of his career was having the unscripted true crime TV series “Cold Justice” do a show on an unsolved homicide case on the books in his office in 2015.
“Being able to get a conviction as a result of that show, in a case that was over three years old, was very satisfying,” he says.
Bord’s advice to today’s Cal Western students is philosophical. “Justice isn’t all about winning; it’s about being fair, honest and practicing our profession within the rules, even when others don’t. If you do those things, you’ll find the legal profession extremely rewarding.”
Despite his passion for the law, Bord has not lost his love for football, and he has remained involved at various levels with the Grafton High School Football Team for 35 years.
“God has been good to me,” he says. “Not many can say they have spent their career doing the things they love to do, and I will always be indebted to California Western for the opportunity they gave me.”