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 The Origins of The Cobb Judicial Circuit Bar Association

Fred D. Bentley, Sr. & Lawrence B. Custer (1999 Edition)


There was no Cobb Judicial Circuit until 1953. Before that, Cobb County was part of the Cherokee Judicial Circuit from December 3, 1832, until December 16, 1833, and then the Coweta Judicial until November 24, 1851. On that date the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit was created and it included Cobb County for over a century.In 1851 the Blue Ridge Circuit consisted of eleven counties: Campbell, Carroll, Cherokee, Cobb, Forsyth, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Milton, Paulding, Polk and Union. Three years afterwards, a total of 63 lawyers actively maintained offices in the Circuit, of which 18 were in Cobb County, all in Marietta*.In those times, twice each year the Judge set out on circuit, holding court for at least a week in each of the counties which composed the circuit. Weekends were for traveling form one county seat to the next. Accompanying the judge was his retinue of lawyers, representing a large part of the local bar. Traveling and living together at the taverns which invariably existed near each courthouse bred a spirit of camaraderie among the members of the legal profession, for the bar on circuit was a traveling men's club. As Judge Garnett Andrews observed: "when congenial people are thrown together by accident, without any task or obligation expressed or implied, or any character to sustain, they hardly ever fail of enjoyment…{W} hen lawyers are thrown together at the tavern, dinner-table, fire-side or in a piazza of summer evenings, where there are none of the responsibilities of host or restraints of guests, they meet under the most favorable circumstances for the pleasure to be derived from unrestrained conversation."Given the small number of lawyers in an established geographical area and the amount of time many of them spent with their brethren on circuit, a social organization of lawyers would have been superfluous. The improvement of roads, the building of railroads, the advent of the automobile and burgeoning population was to change all that.The State Bar of Georgia did not come into existence until 1963. It replaced the Georgia Bar Association, which was organized in 1884 as the result of a movement begun in 1878 with the creation of the American Bar Association. Membership in the Georgia Bar Association was voluntary; membership in the State Bar of Georgia Bar of Georgia is mandatory.There was no formal local bar association in the Blue Ridge Circuit until about 1946. When the Blue Ridge Circuit Bar Association was organized in that year, it was largely as a social organization, for it held no regular meetings and its activities were limited. At least annually it gave a party. At one of the most memorable of these parties, a send-off was given to Cobb County upon the creation of the Cobb Circuit. For many years, however, the two circuits held joint meetings to preserve the relationships, which continued to exist among their members.On January 6, 1953, the organizational meeting of the Cobb Judicial Circuit Bar Association was held at the Courthouse in Marietta, with Albert J. Henderson, Jr. presiding as temporary chairman. Elected President of the organization was Harold S. Willingham. Other officers were William H. Burke, Vice-President; Howell C. Raven, Secretary, and James R. Shaw, Treasurer. Sam J. Welsch was elected to the Board of Governors of the Georgia Bar Association and Claud M. Hicks was designated as his alternate. At that time, there were 52 charter members**.The constitution and by-laws of the Blue Ridge Circuit Bar Association were adopted with the name of the association being the only change in form or substance. Annual dues were set at $10.00; however, attorneys admitted to practice for less than two years paid only $5.00 per year. The purposes of the Association were "to maintain the honor and dignity of the profession of law; to promote the welfare of the bar and its members; to cultivate social intercourse among its members; and for the promotion of legal science and the administration of justice." The disciplinary powers of the Bar were delegated to a Grievance Committee. While the main concern of the Association was social, it also published a minimum fee schedule and considered questions such as whether lawyers should keep office hours on Saturday afternoons.As the responsibilities and activities of the State Bar of Georgia have changed, so too has the focus of the Cobb Bar Association. For example, no longer does it participate in disciplinary matters. However, it has continued its program of social events, has sponsored many educational programs, has instituted numerous awards programs culminating in Law Day each May 1, and promotes various interdisciplinary activities, including the Cobb County Symposium. In fact, not only is the Cobb bar Association a social and professional organization, it may also be considered an educational and civic organization not only for its members but also for the benefit of the community.

The following have served as presidents of the Cobb Judicial Circuit Bar Association:

Harold S. Willingham 1953-1954
William H. Burke 1954-1955
Scott S. Edwards, Jr. 1955-1956
Frank D. Holcomb 1956-1957
James R. Shaw 1957-1958
G. Conley Ingram 1958-1959
Lemon M. Awtrey, Jr. 1959-1960
J. Douglas Henderson 1960-1961
Ben F. Smith 1961-1962
Robert E. McDuff 1962-1963
Raymond E. Reed 1963-1964
Luther C. Hames Jr. 1964-1965
J.A. Cochran 1965-1966
Robert E. Flournoy Jr. 1966-1967
James L. Bullard 1967-1968
Juanita G. Martin 1968-1969
Garvis L. Sams 1969-1970
A. Sidney Parker 1970-1971
John F. Schindeler 1971-1972
Jordan H. Prosser 1972-1973
Richard L. Powell 1973-1974
Lawrence . Custer 1974-1975
Jean E. Johnson, Jr. 1975-1976
Charles Camp 1976-1977
J. Milton Grubbs, Jr. 1977-1978
Irma B. Glover 1978-1979
Donald D. Smith 1979-1980
Berl T. Tate 1980-1981
William P. Holley, Jr. 1981-1982

Albert E. Jones 1982-1983
Hylton B. Dupree 1983-1984
L.A. Paulk 1984-1985

Robert J. Grayson 1985-1986
Donald A. Mangerie 1986-1987
Jerry L. Gentry 1987-1988
Robert L. Beard 1988-1989
Rex Ruff 1989-1990
Toby Prodgers 1990-1991
Dennis C. O'Brien 1991-1992
James W. Friedwald 1992-1993
Adele Platt Grubbs 1993-1994
John H. Moore 1994-1995
Hansell L. Smith 1995-1996
James R. Whitfield 1996-1997
J. Stephen Schuster 1997-1998
Robert D. Ingram 1998-1999
J. Diane Woods 1999-2000
David P. Darden 2000-2001
William "Bill" Gentry 2001-2002
Ray Gary, Jr. 2002-2003
Debra Bernes 2003-2004
Ann Noel Dettmering 2004-2005
Ronald Arthur Lowry 2005-2006
F. Marian Weeks 2006-2007
Cindi L. Yeager 2007-2008
Andrew W. Jones 2008-2009
Martin O’Toole 2009-2010
Nancy Ingram Jordan 2010-2011

J. Kevin Moore 2011-2012

Robert Schnatmeier 2012 – 2013

Mazi Mazloom 2013 – 2014

Laura Murphree 2014 – 2015

Dawn Levine 2015 – 2016

Darrell Sutton 2016 - 2017


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