Oral Histories

The Oral History Project

The Mercer Center has undertaken to collect and preserve the life stories of distinguished Georgia lawyers and judges. We began recording a series of oral histories with a generous grant from the Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers. The Journal of Southern Legal History has published transcripts of some of the interviews. We hope that the interviews will help law students and lawyers to see and understand what it means to be a professional and to appreciate the personal fulfillment that comes from a career and a life conducted in such a manner.

Our interviews so far have more than fulfilled our expectations. In March 2009, Professor Longan interviewed attorney Frank Jones for two hours in front of a live audience of Mercer law students and faculty. Mr. Jones shared stories about his many years of practice in Macon with Jones, Cork & Miller and over two decades at King & Spalding in Atlanta. He described his appearances before the U.S. Supreme Court and his service as president of the State Bar of Georgia, of the American College of Trial Lawyers and of the Supreme Court Historical Society. Most importantly, Mr. Jones took the opportunity to talk about what professionalism in the practice has meant to him and why he believes it is so important.  To see the interview, click here.  The published transcript of the interview is available here.

In November and December of 2009, Stuart Walker, of the Macon firm of Martin Snow, and Professor Longan spent most of two days interviewing former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia Harold G. Clarke about his remarkable life and career. These conversations took place just off the square in Forsyth, Georgia, in the house where Justice Clarke was born and where years later he practiced law. More perhaps than any other person, Justice Clarke is responsible for the fact that Georgia is widely recognized as the nation’s leader in the promotion of professionalism. For the published transcript of the interview, click here.  To see Justice Clarke's comments on the creation of the Georgia Chief Justice's Commission on Professionalism, click here.

In September 2012, Professor Longan and Professor Mike Sabbath interviewed Judge W. Homer Drake, Jr.  Judge Drake spoke about his many years of service on the bankruptcy court and about his role in reforming the bankruptcy system.  He also talked about his decades of service to Mercer University. Judge Drake's oral history is available here. The published transcript and several short tributes to Judge Drake are available here.

On April 1, 2013, Professor Longan interviewed A. James Elliott, Associate Dean at the Emory University School of Law and former President of the State Bar of Georgia.  Among other topics, Dean Elliott talked about his role in the founding of Georgia Legal Services and in the creation of the Georgia IOLTA program.  He also spoke about his 28 years of private practice as a transactional lawyer in Atlanta and his 18 years on the faculty at Emory.  Dean Elliott's oral history may be viewed by clicking here.

The oral history of Jack Sammons, Professor of Law Emeritus at Mercer, was completed in 2014.  In approximately seven hours of conversation, Professor Sammons reflected on his life, his teaching, his scholarship and many other topics. You may view the recordings here. An index to the conversations is available here.

The most recent interview, which took place over the course of three days in the spring and summer of 2016, was with Manley Brown.  Mr. Brown is a distinguished trial lawyer and long-time adjunct professor at the Mercer Law School.  He shared stories of his upbringing in western North Carolina, of clerking for Judge W.A. Bootle in the 1960's, and of his long career at the bar. The interview will be published soon in Volume 26 of the Journal of Southern Legal History.  You may read Professor Longan's introduction to the interview by clicking here.  The recordings are currently being edited.  When they are ready, you will find links to the recordings and an index on this page.

The oral history project is ongoing. If you have suggestions for people who should be interviewed, please contact Professor Longan at longan_p@law.mercer.edu or 478-301-2639. As the project goes forward, this generation of law students and young lawyers will have increasing opportunities to see and understand what it means to live a life in the law in accordance with the best traditions of the profession.