DALLAS – Even former presidents get called for jury duty.
George W. Bush set the George Allen Courthouse abuzz Tuesday when he reported for jury duty. He was one of 219 people to appear.
"He sat, literally, right behind me and I was like, 'I feel like I know this guy,'" said Joel Ehambe, an Irving resident. "I didn't pay too much attention until the judge himself said, 'It's an honor to have the former president of the United States [in the courthouse.]' I turned around and I was like, 'Oh, I do know that that guy."
Bush, along with his Secret Service detail arrived, arrived at the courthouse early Wednesday.
It didn't take long for word to spread via social media that the ex-president had been in the house. Bush was on a 35-member jury panel sent to the fifth floor court of District Judge Eric Moyé.
Lawyers were picking jurors for a civil dispute that had been sent for trial.
"This is the first time we've had a president here," Moyé said. "Everybody was very excited to see him. He was very affable."
The former president's presence caused quite a stir in Moyé's court, but not in a bad way.
Ehambe and jury panel member Dale Lucky were impressed by the former president's humor, regular-guy demeanor, and by the fact that he didn't try to shirk jury duty.
"We were sitting there and the president, he was making a lot of jokes and he had a lot of people laughing in there," he said. "It was my first time ever seeing him, outside of being on TV. I think he was a pretty cool guy."
Lucky called it a "once-in-a-lifetime experience," saying he doubts that he would ever get that close again to a current or former president.
During a break, Bush took pictures made with each of the 35 members of the jury panel. Ehambe has already sent it to his mother and posted it on Facebook.
"I knew she'd be ecstatic to see something like that," Ehambe said.
It was Ehambe's first time to get called for jury duty, and he said Bush set him at ease.
"Just knowing that you have a guy in the back laughing the whole time, having a fun time, it just kind of eased the nervousness," Ehambe said.
For the first time, jury duty did not seem like such a chore.
"At first, coming into it, I didn't want to get picked for jury duty in the first place," he said. "But after being there, I actually want to get picked."
Ehabme wasn't picked, and neither was Lucky, or the former president. Moyé says the president's juror number was high enough that he wasn't picked to be on the jury.
"He was discharged, having completed his obligation," the judge said.
Afterward, Bush's Secret Service detail quickly escorted him out through a back door. A spokesman for the former president released a statement to News 8 later Wednesday:
"He recognizes how vital jury service is to our judicial system - and that with the great privileges of being a citizen in America and having the right to vote come important responsibilities like this one," the spokesman said.