Academic journal article The Journal of Southern Legal History

"Barretts and Hulls"

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern Legal History

"Barretts and Hulls"

Article excerpt


Augusta, going back to the World War II generation, has several families where there has been more than one generation of attorneys. Names that come to mind are Bell, Hagler, Fleming, three generations of Lansing B. Lees, McCracken, Nicholson, Pierce, and Steinberg. But I want to give particular attention to the Barretts and the Hulls and their generauons of Georgia lawyers going back prior to World War I and who have profoundly influenced their communities and their profession.

William Hale (Will) Barrett

William Hale (Will) Barrett was born in 1867 to a family that had lived in Augusta for several generations. He obtained a degree in philosophy at the University of Georgia where he took first honors in his class and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Upon graduation, he returned to Augusta where he read law in the offices of Major J.C.C. Black. Major Black, a Civil War veteran, defeated Tom Watson for Congress and served two terms there.

On Black's death in 1928, after giving a life interest in his substantial home on Greene Street to his sisters, he left the remainder to the Barrett & Hull law firm. While that home is now gone and the lot is occupied by the offices of the Richmond County state court judges, Major Black's portrait hangs in one of the conference rooms at the Hull Barrett law firm.

In addition to reading law with Major Black, Will Barrett taught public school and served two years as the principal of Central Grammar School (a position to which he was appointed at age nineteen). He was admitted to the bar in 1887 at the age of twenty. Five years later, he married Miss Ella Barnes, whose father was a prominent lawyer - George T. Barnes. Barnes represented Augusta in Congress for six years. In addition to practicing law with major Black, Will Barrett served as a judge of the recorder's court of the city. Other community activities were service for eighteen years as a trustee of the Medical College of Georgia, chairman of the war community service committee during World War I, one of the founding members and the first president of the Rotary Club of Augusta, president of the University of Georgia alumni society, and president of the Georgia Bar Association.

Barrett's home and law office were destroyed in the great Augusta fire of 1918. Yet he served as chairman of the relief committee that was established to help those less fortunate who had suffered greatly from that disaster. When the city later presented him with a gift of appreciation, his voice trembled as he said in acknowledgment: "I would rather hand this on to my son than any other heritage."

Barrett & Hull

In 1916, Will Barrett attended the annual meeting of the American Bar Association in Washington, D.C. Former Augustan, Joseph R. Lamar, was then a justice of the United States Supreme Court. This appointment came his way based on his acquaintance with President Taft when Taft spent time at his "little white house" in Augusta following his election. Justice Lamar invited Augusta lawyers to be his guests in Washington during that meeting. During their visit, Will Barrett and another Augusta lawyer, Jim Hull, discussed forming their own partnership. So it was that in 1916, when Barrett and Hull returned to Augusta, they established the law firm of Barrett & Hull.


The Barrett & Hull practice of law together lasted but six years. It was then that Barrett's name was suggested to President Warren G. Harding for nomination to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Georgia. It was not an office that Barrett sought, but one which he agreed to accept as an opportunity to be of service.

A large part of the practice of Barrett & Hull was representing railroads. That and a Republican majority in the United States Senate and opposition by labor unions in general and the unions for railroad workers in particular put confirmation in question. …

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