Opinion Columns & Blogs

WALKER: Bob Hatcher, Mansfield Jennings, Hugh Sosebee and Newell Nesmith

Anyone who has ever accomplished anything, and most everyone has, can thank someone, and usually several people, for their success. In other words, and more simply, we are all standing on someone else’s shoulders. It might be a daddy, grandmother, teacher, minister, friend or, in some cases, a stranger. But we are all standing with the help of someone else.

Two things happened in the past few days that have, once again, reminded me of this steadfast and unquestionable truth. First, I was thrilled with the actions of the regents of the University System of Georgia in declaring university status for what will soon be Middle Georgia State University. As The Telegraph said in a very good, truthful editorial, “it’s more than just a name change. It’s a new opportunity and greater significance in what will happen in our part of the state for years to come. It’s big.”

I was glad to support this “university initiative.” But, let us not forget those with the foresight to establish Macon Junior College, which later became Macon State College and then Middle Georgia State College. The consolidation of Macon State and Middle Georgia College (which was founded in 1884) was essential to obtaining university status.

Then-Regent Bob Hatcher understood this. Regent Mansfield Jennings, despite the fact that Middle Georgia College “was in his backyard,” supported the initiative. (Without Mansfield’s support, the effort probably would have failed.) These two outstanding men, no longer regents, are shoulders we were standing on when regents, of which I am but one, voted affirmatively for “university status” on Wednesday, March 18.

Another man with big shoulders slipped away from us at age 98 on Wednesday, March 18. Judge Hugh Dorsey Sosebee Jr. was unknown to me, except by sterling reputation, until he joined me and others as charter members of the Georgia Code Revision Commission over 30 years ago.

I later became chairman of this commission, and at every meeting relied, increasingly, on the wisdom and common sense of this great Georgian. The work of the commission was laborious and, at times, “mind numbing.” But the work was important, and no one contributed more than Judge Sosebee. He was smart, respected and articulate. When Judge Sosebee spoke, every member listened, and most always agreed. He had uncommon common sense.

This is not exaggeration nor undeserved pontification. It is honest and truthful. Every lawyer in Georgia who has practiced and used the Official Code of Georgia since it was created and adopted in 1981 was, and is, standing on Judge Sosebee’s shoulders.

I know I am standing on many people’s shoulders, and one day I will write about several of them. But, for today, I want to mention another lawyer, now 94 years of age. Albert Newell NeSmith Jr., graduated from UGA law school in 1948 and practiced law in Cochran for more than 50 years. Beyond this, he is a mentor of UGA’s greatest generation. He served in the Counter-Intelligence Corps in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal on Aug. 18, 1945.

NeSmith’s accomplishments are too lengthy to cover here. But I do want to tell you about his help to a struggling young lawyer, Larry Walker, in 1967. I got a job from Georgia’s attorney general to check the entire title to Middle Georgia College. It was a mammoth undertaking. Without NeSmith’s considerable assistance (he probably did more work than I did), I believe I would still be in the courthouse in Cochran today, trying to get it all figured out.

All Americans owe a debt of gratitude to Newell NeSmith. And, I am standing on his shoulders, not only for the Bleckley County title work assistance, but also for his good advice and help throughout the early part of my law practice.

Bob Hatcher, Mansfield Jennings, Hugh Sosebee Jr. and Newell NeSmith, I’m standing on all their shoulders. Many of you are too.

Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: lwalker@whgmlaw.com.