The Griffin Bell Papers at the Georgia Historical Society

By Deaton, Stan | The Journal of Southern Legal History, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

The Griffin Bell Papers at the Georgia Historical Society


Deaton, Stan, The Journal of Southern Legal History


The Georgia Historical Society is pleased to announce that it has acquired through donation the papers of Judge Griffin B. Bell, the dean of Georgia lawyers and one of the most prominent Americans in the second half of the twentieth century.

Judge Bell, who died January 5, 2009, at die age of ninety, was a preeminent figure in the legal profession, serving under President Jimmy Carter as the seventy-second attorney general of the United States from 1977 to 1979. Prior to that, Bell served for fifteen years as a judge on die United States Court of Appeals for die Fifth Circuit, appointed by President John F. Kennedy, for whom Bell acted as campaign manager in Georgia in die 1960 election.

The Americus native served in the United States Army during World War II and graduated cum laude from Mercer University Law School in 1948. He practiced law in Georgia from 1948 to 1961, joining King 8c Spalding in Atlanta in 1953 and becoming its managing partner in 1958. He served as senior partner until 2004, when he became senior counsel for the firm.

From 1985 to 1987, Bell served as a member of the U.S. Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on South Africa. He represented Eugene Hasenfus, whose capture by die Nicaraguan authorities exposed die Iran-Contra scandal, and during the IranContra investigation, he served as counsel to President George H.W. Bush. In 1989, he was appointed Vice Chairman of President Bush's Commission on Federal Ediics Law Reform. Bell specialized in corporate internal investigations, many that were high-profile, like that for E.F. Hutton following federal indictments for its cash management practices. In September 2004, he was appointed the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Military Commission Review. …

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