Several bailiffs, who all died away within months of one another, were honored at the annual Law Day luncheon for their dedication in promoting equality under the law.
A longtime local radio host was also bestowed the highest honor a non-lawyer can receive from the Blue Ridge Bar Association for his commitment to “stimulating a deeper sense of individual responsibility so that citizens recognize their duties as well as their rights.”
Law Day was implemented during former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s term in office as a way to reflect on how the law has shaped America and the challenges that still lie ahead.
“It’s a day to rededicate ourselves to the law,” said Attorney Ashley Ray on behalf of the Blue Ridge Bar Association Law Day Committee.
Given that this year marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the law community celebrated Law Day with the theme “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.”
“Equality for all is a beautiful thing that requires us to look back in history,” said Georgia Court of Appeals Justice M. Yvette Miller, who was the guest speaker at the April 30 luncheon.
Reciting the first line of the Declaration of Independence, which states, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created Equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” Miller said America’s forefathers were intelligent men who capitalized key words such as “truth” and “men.”
“Whatever our differences may be … we are a government of laws created by the people, for the people,” she said. “We’ve made so much progress since the Declaration of Independence. Thank God for President Lincoln, who saw it fit to free the slaves; to set free an entire race with one swoop of the pen.”
Referencing the tragic bombings in Boston, Mass., last month, Miller implored Americans to stand shoulder to shoulder in order to live up to the dream of equality.
Two former Cherokee County judges spent decades of their career upholding equality under the law and those men were honored April 30 with Lifetime Service Awards.
Retired Chief State Court Judge C.J. Gober and retired Chief Superior Court Judge Frank C. Mills III were lauded by their peers for their service and dedication to the law — recognitions that the now senior judges said they were humbled by.
“I appreciate all of the years I have known all of you, and the good things we have done,” said Gober, who spearheaded a successful accountability court.
Mills shared a similar sentiment. “I want to thank all of you for tolerating me all of these years,” he said. “I have enjoyed working with all of you.”
The Law Day luncheon was also a time to remember three men who always put the court system first — bailiffs who were known as the “faces of the courthouse.”
The late Bob Stoner, Johnny Nelson and Fred Barrows were recipients of this year’s Bob Stubbs Award, which were presented by Juvenile Court Judges John Sumner and Anthony Baker, as well as State Court Judge Alan Jordan.
Stoner, Nelson and Barrows brought comic relief to the courthouse, cracking jokes and trying to move the judges along in hearings. Judge Jordan, who spent a considerable amount of time with Nelson and Stoner in his courtroom, likened the pair to “Frick and Frack.”
The judge said Barrows was a “unique individual.”
“He had a skill that I have not yet seen achieved by any other bailiff. He managed to turn the job into a senior dating service,” Jordan said with a laugh. “He was a character, and I consider him a real friend.”
Stoner’s wife, Ball Ground City Councilwoman Andrenia “Andy” Stoner, said her husband was proud to be a member of the justice system. Nelson’s daughter, Didi Nelson, said the same of her father.
“Although he would have been sitting here with a red face, I can’t tell you how much this would have meant to my dad,” Didi Nelson said. “The court family took him in, and he was so happy to be a part of that family.”
The final award went to a man who was likened to a “five-tool” baseball player — someone who encourages better respect for the law and the court system, promotes the Constitution, contributes to the effective functioning of government and appreciates the rule of law.
Byron Dobbs, a seasoned broadcaster with 50-plus years of experience under his belt, was honored with the Liberty Bell Award.
“This is a such an honor,” he said. “I’ve been in radio for 56 years, and I am still doing it because I still enjoy it.”
Dobbs, a co-owner of WLJA 101.1, began his on-air career in 1957 with the first radio station in Cherokee County. After 30 years with that station, Dobbs and his business partner purchased WLJA in 1998 and has been the voice of North Georgia since.
He has been named Georgia Broadcaster of the Year in 1977 and was inducted into the Georgia Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2008.