Page Pate: Lawyer who won over jurors, informed the public

Pate, who drowned off St. Simons Island, was one of the founders of the Georgia Innocence Project

Attorney Page Pate carried with him a cool confidence and sharp knowledge of the law that won over juries and informed countless radio listeners and television viewers.

“All of his human qualities of kindness, generosity and respect transferred over to his work in the courtroom,” said Atlanta attorney David Wolfe, whose law office was just down the hall from Pate’s. “That’s why jurors liked him, and that’s why judges, lawyers, prosecutors and witnesses respected him.”

Wolfe also respected Pate for his legal commentary. “He was always so well-informed, so well-spoken, so spot on,” he said.

Pate, 55, died Sunday in a drowning accident off St. Simons Island. Authorities say he got caught in a riptide in Gould’s Inlet and, even though fire and rescue officers got him out of the water and administered CPR, he was later pronounced dead at a Brunswick hospital. One of Pate’s two sons also got caught in the strong currents but made it to shore safely.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. this Saturday at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Brunswick. Pate is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; his sons, Chatham and Asher; his parents, Robert and Mary Elizabeth Pate; and his brother, Lane Pate.

Pate is well-remembered as one of the founders of the Georgia Innocence Project two decades ago. In the years since, the project has freed numerous people from wrongful convictions.

“When I asked him for his support, he instantly said yes,” said Aimee Maxwell, the project’s initial executive director. “He also was available to brainstorm about our cases. He was invaluable to getting the Georgia Innocence Project started.”

In a statement, the Georgia Innocence Project said it was “heartbroken” about Pate’s passing. “We will pick up the pieces and honor Page’s memory by continuing the tireless struggle for justice and accountability in our criminal legal system, drawing on Page’s tenacious spirit and grace for inspiration,” the organization said.

Pate, who was born in Dublin, graduated from Atlanta’s Woodward Academy before attending Georgia State University, finishing in the top 10 percent of his class. He obtained his law degree from the University of Georgia, graduating with honors.

After working for private law firms, Pate branched out on his own and started his own Atlanta firm, now called Pate, Johnson & Church. Specializing in criminal defense, Pate had numerous high-profile cases in Georgia and across the country. A few years ago, Pate opened an office in Brunswick and moved with his family to St. Simons Island.

In a statement, Pate’s law firm said: “Some of the best things about Page won’t be in the news but will live on in the memories of the people whose lives he touched. Though he was a formidable, sometimes intimidating, attorney in the courtroom, Page had an easy smile, an earnest laugh and a great sense of humor. He was guided by his faith and his creator, but he had an open heart and an open mind to all.”

The firm said some of Pate’s happiest moments were on trips with his sons, such as on long hikes on the West Coast or taking in NASCAR races.

Pate often provided insightful legal commentary for WABE, local and national television outlets and several newspapers, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In a tribute to Pate this week, CNN’s Alisyn Camerota said she was always happy when she learned Pate was going to be on her show.

“Because I knew that I didn’t have to do any work, frankly,” she said. “I knew that we could ask him anything and he would answer it in a smart way that you hadn’t thought of before. This is such devastating news and our hearts are really with his family.”

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