Introduction to A Conversation with the Honorable Harold G. Clarke

By Longan, Patrick Emery | The Journal of Southern Legal History, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Introduction to A Conversation with the Honorable Harold G. Clarke


Longan, Patrick Emery, The Journal of Southern Legal History


In late 2009, Stuart Walker and I had the distinct honor and pleasure of interviewing the Honorable Harold G. Clarke about his life.' As you will read in the following pages, Justice Clarke has led a remarkable and interesting life. He was born in his parents' house just off the square in Forsyth, Georgia, at a time when the streets near the square were not yet paved. He grew up in the 1930s and attended the University of Georgia.' Like so many of his generation, Justice Clarke's higher education was interrupted by service in World War II. He soon found himself in charge of the Pacific edition of Stars and Stripes? and in that capacity he had several adventures that he described for us in his interview.

After the war, Justice Clarke returned to the University of Georgia where, with his fellow veterans, he hurried to complete his studies and get on with his life. He completed law school and, on one fateful day, learned that he passed the bar and also met Nora, who would soon become his wife. The fact that the future Mrs. Clarke was someone else's date that night did not deter him for long. Justice Clarke built his career in Forsyth, first as a newspaperman and then as an attorney in general practice. In 1961, Justice Clarke began serving in the Georgia General Assembly, just as the legislature found iLself dealing with issues such as the integration of the University of Georgia and adaptation of the state political system to the principle of "one man, one vote."4 It was a tumultuous time to be involved in politics in Georgia.

Meanwhile, Justice Clarke continued practicing law, and he eventually served a term as president of the State Bar of Georgia in 1977. Two years later, there was an opening on the Supreme Court, and Justice Clarke responded to the encouragement of others by submitting his name. Justice Clarke joined the Court in 1979 and served for ten years as an Associate Justice. He then became Chief Justice, and in that capacity undertook a number of initiatives with far-reaching consequences for Georgia and particularly its legal profession. One initiative that we discussed in his interview at length was the creation of the Georgia Chief Justice's Commission on Professionalism, which was the first of its kind and still serves as a model for other states that seek to promote professionalism among lawyers.

Justice Clarke stepped down from the court in 1994 and soon found himself eager to practice again, this time with the Troutman Sanders firm in Atlanta. …

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