State Bar of Georgia
State Bar of Georgia
Black History Month

Donald Hollowell

December 19, 1917 - December 27, 2004

Donald Hollowell, Black History Month

A native of Wichita, Kansas, Donald Hollowell pursued law after experiencing discrimination serving in the US Army during World War II. In 1951, Hollowell earned a law degree from Loyola University Chicago school of Law, and moved to Atlanta, GA, in 1952 to set up a law practice, what is today Hollowell Foster  Herring PC.

Hollowell became well known for fighting racial segregation in the State of Georgia. Hollowell sued the University of Georgia, charging the institution with racist admission policies. The suit ended in 1961 with a federal court order demanding the admission of two African American students, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton E. Holmes.

In 1960, Hollowell and co-counsel Horace Ward won a victory in the Court of Appeals of Georgia which secured the release of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the Georgia State Prison. In another case, Hollowell and members of his firm prevented the electrocution of a 15-year-old black youth from Monticello, Georgia, five days before the scheduled execution. Hollowell and civil rights champion C. B. King also defended Dr. King and hundreds of civil rights activists in the historic civil rights campaign in Albany, Georgia known as the Albany Movement.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Hollowell as regional director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a government agency that monitors workplace discrimination. This appointment made Hollowell the first black regional director of a major federal agency. Hollowell remained with the EEOC for nearly 20 years. Hollowell also served as president of the Voter Education Project, where he helped increase the number of African-American voters from 3 million to 5.5 million.

In 2002, the University of Georgia awarded Hollowell its honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Hollowell died on December 27, 2004 of heart failure. 

To honor him, the City of Atlanta renamed Bankhead Highway (U.S. 78) in his honor; Emory University named a professorship in his honor, as well.

Black History Month

Honorable Leah Ward Sears 

Justice Leah Ward Sears-BlackHistoryMonthLeah Ward Sears forged her own path from Savannah to the Supreme Court of Georgia

Like the rest of the nation, Savannah in the 1960’s was in a tumultuous state of social change. A teenage girl named Leah Sears was right in the middle of it.

 “I had a great family that supported me, but I had to muddle through the problems that you would expect to see in that time,” she says. “If you were a teenage black girl growing up in the deep South, you weren’t supposed to amount to anything.”

Sears, known today as the first African-American woman to serve as chief justice of any state supreme court in the United States, obviously had different plans.

She was fascinated and inspired by the U.S. Supreme Court cases that became civil rights landmarks, such as Brown v. Board of Education, which declared the segregated schools were unconstitutional, and Loving v. Virginia, which ended legal restrictions on the marriage of interracial couples.

“Very early on, I saw law as a path to make the changes that needed to be made in this country,” Sears says.

Sears was the first black cheerleader at Savannah High School, one of many “firsts” she would achieve in her life. She transferred to Beach, graduating a year early, and then studied as an undergraduate at Cornell University.  After graduation, she met and married her first husband, with whom she had two children. She graduated from law school at Emory University in 1980 and then worked in a law firm in Atlanta before serving as a judge in the City of Atlanta Traffic Court.

Sears was the youngest person ever elected to a superior court seat in the state of Georgia when she became a Fulton County Superior Court Judge in 1988. Four years later, she was also the youngest person in contention for an interim seat on the Supreme Court of Georgia.  But despite her age, Sears had already had considerable experience as a judge, and Governor Zell Miller appointed her to the position, making her not just the youngest person to sit on the Supreme Court of Georgia, but also the first woman.

“It was time for a woman to be on the court,” recalls Sears. “But for me to also be young and black and to win that seat—that was kind of a shock.”

During Justice Sears’ tenure, notions of gender, age, and race became irrelevant next to her reputation as an astute, thoughtful, and committed judge. Those qualities, however, would lead her to break new ground once again. In 2005, she was elected by her fellow justices to be the chief justice. She was the first African-American woman in any state to serve in that position.

“Being voted chief justice by my colleagues made me very happy and proud,” Sears says. “That was a great honor.”

Sears retired from the bench in 2009, and now works in private practice at Schiff Hardin LLP. 

Learn more about the Hon. Leah Ward Sears here.

Black History Month

Chavene Bowers "C.B." King

October 12, 1923 – March 15, 1988

CB King - Black History MonthThe third of seven sons, Chevene Bowers King was born in Albany in 1923 to Margaret Slater and Clennon W. "Daddy" King, both of whom were graduates of Alabama's Tuskegee Institute. Daddy King had earned Tuskegee expenses by working as a "buggy boy" for the institute's celebrated president, Booker T. Washington. The drive for education, an important part of the King family's priorities, became the path toward distinction for the young King.

Like his siblings, C. B. King was educated in Albany's segregated school system. Following a brief period at Tuskegee and employment at a naval war plant in the Northwest, he served a tour of duty in the U.S. Navy. King then attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, graduating in 1949. Denied access to Georgia's whites-only law schools, King enrolled at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1951, the year before he received his law degree, King wed Carol Roumain; they eventually had five children.

Back in Georgia, where he opened his law practice in the mid-1950s, King was one of only a handful of African American lawyers in the entire state and the only black lawyer south of Atlanta who would take on civil and criminal cases. Frequently King's reception in the courts was markedly uncivil. One of his legal partners in the 1970s, Herbert Phipps, who later served as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Georgia, recalled the hostility his partner faced. Phipps noted that court officials did not want King in court and would try to make him leave or sit with the observers. Once, the judge would not halt proceedings at King's request, though the case was going late into the night. When King asked for water, he was brought a bucket with a ladle. Characteristically, he made this a matter of court record, which later went up to the appeals court.

King made two attempts to secure political office. His race to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1964, though unsuccessful, was a landmark effort, for he was the first black candidate in Georgia to run for Congress since the Reconstruction era.

Nominated five years later, in 1969, by the state's black leadership, he became Georgia's first African American candidate for governor. He was supported by Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, and Julian Bond. Harry Belafonte gave a benefit performance for the campaign. Although he did not win the governorship, his candidacy inspired large numbers of black people to register, and their voting power ensured the election of several black candidates for local and regional offices.

In January 1988, only a few weeks before his death, the Georgia state legislature formally recognized his contribution to society. At the state capitol he was presented the first Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award by the Georgia legislature and Governor Joe Frank Harris. As a culminating tribute to King's legacy, in November 2002 the new federal courthouse in downtown Albany was named in his honor.

For more information on CB King, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia entry here.

New York Times Obituary.

Black History Month

Honorable William H. Alexander

William Alexander - Black History MonthWilliam H. Alexander was a Fulton County, GA Superior Court judge, state legislator, and civil rights attorney who successfully challenged segregation and discrimination. Born in Macon, Georgia, he graduated from Fort Valley State College in 1954. After serving in the Korean War, he earned a juris doctorate (J.D.) law degree from the University of Michigan and and a master of laws (L.L.M.) degree from Georgetown University.

He became a civil rights icon as the lead attorney in a case forcing the desegregation of the Pickrick restaurant owned by segregationist Georgia governor Lester Maddox. Other lawyers on his team included legal legends such as Constance Baker Motley and Burke Marshall. That victory set the precedent for the desegregation of all restaurants in the state. Alexander was among the first African-Americans elected to the Georgia Legislature after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, representing Atlanta from 1966-1975. He was known to tackle complex issues. After serving in the legislature, he served as a judge for 20 years, first as a Fulton County State Court judge and then as a Fulton County Superior Court judge until his retirement in 1996.

Black History Month

Sage Brown 
Nominated by: Bonnie Lowe Jones
October 14, 1946 - August 22, 2015

Sage Brown, Black History MonthAs a young man, Brown was an integral part of the youth force that fought for integration and the civil rights of African American citizens in the state of Georgia. In 1963, when the Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools directed the integration of Groves and Savannah High Schools, the NAACP and the Chatham County Crusade for Voters identified him as one of the primary African-American students capable of taking on the daunting task. His training in civil disobedience coupled with his outstanding intellectual abilities made him a primary candidate for the integration of Groves High School. 

In June of 2015, the State Bar of Georgia and the Center for Civil and Human Rights, formally recognized Attorney Brown's efforts as part of the Celebration of Civil Rights Milestones in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Besides actively engaging in the Civil Rights struggle, Sage also answered the call to duty by serving his nation during the Vietnam War. During the period of May 1966 through March 1973, he served as an officer during three combat tours, including a thirty-month combat tour as a Infantry Rifle Platoon Leader. At the conclusion of his service, Sage had earned the rank of Captain, and was awarded a Bronze Star Medal (with one oak leaf cluster), a Purple Heart Medal, an Army Commendation Medal (with one oak leaf cluster), the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal (with nine bronze service stars), the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Training Service Medal 1st Class and the Combat Infantry Badge. Moreover, during the latter part of his military service, Sage attended school at night and completed requirements for a bachelor's degree in December of 1972. 

After being honorably discharged from the United States Army, Augusta College-now Georgia Regents University-conferred the degree of Bachelor of Business Administration to him in June of 1973. He also earned a Master of Business Administration from the Joint Graduate Center of Savannah State and Armstrong State Colleges in 1975. While serving as the Division Manager of Industrial Relations for the Woodlands Division of Continental Forest Industries, Sage earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the John Marshall Law School, and passed the Georgia Bar Examination in 1978.

"Sage wanted to be a criminal lawyer, he wanted to help people accused of crimes,” said Chatham County Recorder’s Court Judge Harris Odell Jr in a Savannah Morning News article in 2015. 

Obituary for Sage Brown

Black History Month

Honorable Joyette M. Holmes
Nominated by: Sharon Reiss

Judge Joyette Holmes-Black History MonthThe Honorable Joyette M. Holmes is a native of Valdosta, Georgia. Upon graduation from Valdosta High School, Judge Holmes attended the University of Georgia where she earned dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Criminal Justice. Judge Holmes then went on to earn her Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law in Maryland.

Prior to being appointed as the Chief Magistrate Judge for the Cobb County Judicial Circuit, Judge Holmes served the citizens of Cobb County and the State of Georgia in numerous roles. Judge Holmes served as a prosecutor under District Attorney D. Victor Reynolds and Solicitor Barry Morgan. Judge Holmes also operated and served clients in private practice in the Law Office of Joyette Holmes.

Judge Holmes’ professional memberships include being a member in the Georgia Bar Association, the Cobb County Bar Association and the Northwest Georgia Bar Association. Her community involvement includes serving as a board member for the Boys and Girls Club and the Music on Wheels Foundation of America. She is also a member of the Cobb County Branch of the NAACP and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. Judge Holmes is a member of Second St. John Full Gospel Church where she serves as the Scholarship Committee Chair and the Middle and High School Youth Mentor.

Judge Holmes was featured as one of Cobb Life Magazine’s “20 Rising Stars Under 40” and named as a Woman of Achievement for the Cobb County NAACP. 

Black History Month

Styles L. Hutchins
November 21, 1852 - September 7, 1950

Styles Hutchins - Black History MonthStyles L. Hutchins was born November 21, 1852, in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He attended Atlanta University and after completing his studies, taught in local schools until 1871. In that year he became principal of Knox Institute in Athens, Georgia. In 1873 Hutchins left his position and moved to South Carolina, where he graduated from the University of South Carolina Law School in 1876. Admitted to the South Carolina bar at the end of the Reconstruction era, Hutchins first served as a Republican state judge, but the restoration of Democratic power led to his resignation.

Hutchins returned to Georgia, fought for admission to the state bar in Atlanta, and after a six-month struggle he became the first African American attorney admitted to the Georgia bar. A certificate recognizing his status as an attorney and permitting him to plead cases in Georgia courts was issued January 28, 1878. Styles Hutchins became not only the first African American attorney admitted to the Georgia bar but also the first to plead a case before a judge in the state. 

In 1881 Hutchins moved to Chattanooga and opened a law office. He also partnered with other local African Americans to establish a newspaper, The Independent Age, which Hutchins edited. In 1886 Hutchins was elected to a single term to the Tennessee General Assembly as a Republican. He was the second Chattanooga black to serve in the legislature; the first was William C. Hodge. Hutchins also once held a patronage position in the revenue department of the U.S. Treasury.

In 1906 Styles and his partner Noah Parden became the first African Americans to make an oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Find out more about Styles Hutchins here.