Mike Maloof Sr., 72: Admired lawyer had big heart, loved ones say

Defense attorney Mike Maloof Sr. bore little physical resemblance to his well-known father, longtime DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer and bar owner Manuel Maloof.

But in personality, son and father were much alike: gruff, intimidating and big-hearted, family and friends said.

“He had a level of freedom few of us ever experience because he was not interested in the opinion of others, only what he thought was right,” said his son and law partner, Mike Maloof Jr.

William Michael Maloof Sr., Decatur defense attorney, golfer and family man, died March 3 after a brief illness. He was 72.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. March 16 at St. John Chrysostom Melkite Catholic Church at 1428 Ponce DeLeon, with family receiving visitors at 1 p.m. Visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on March 15 at A.S. Turner & Sons Funeral Home in Decatur.

ExploreRead and sign the online guestbook for Michael Maloof

Maloof was the oldest of the eight children of Manuel Maloof, DeKalb’s longtime CEO and owner of the landmark Manuel’s Tavern, and his wife Dolly.

He was born in England, where his father served in World War II and where his parents met and married. He came to the United States at six months old.

Mike Maloof graduated from St. Pius High School, where he played football for four years and formed a lifelong friendship with Drew Davidson. The two later attended Georgia Tech, where Maloof received a bachelor’s degree in industrial management.

“Mike was a very dependable, caring and trustworthy guy,” Davidson said.

After graduating from Tech, Maloof received his law degree from Emory University Law School. He started practicing law in 1972 and has had his offices in the same building in Decatur since 1975.

While a partner in the law firm Moulton, Carriere, Cavan and Maloof, he served as deputy coroner for DeKalb County, which proved to be helpful when he became a sole practitioner specializing in criminal defense in 1983.

Attorney Christine Koehler began her legal career with Maloof, working first for him as an intern and then as a lawyer after she passed the bar exam.

“I loved him. He was legendary to us,” Koehler said. “He was a giant to us in Decatur and really in the legal defense community throughout Georgia.”

She said Maloof was “one of those rare guys who really got the Constitution and believed in treating everyone equally well.”

Maloof never walked past a homeless person without handing over a few dollars and was equally dedicated to his clients, whether they could afford to pay him a little or a lot, Koehler said.

“He did it because it was the right thing to do, and he said it all evened out in the wash,” she said.

He won cases that seemed unwinnable, word spread, and his phone rang off the hook, Koehler said. He had a “wicked sense of humor” and “was funny as hell.”

“He could be very, very gruff, short with you and to the point,” Koehler said. “But he was fiercely loyal to the people he cared about.”

Longtime attorney Larry Steele rented office space from Maloof for 20 years and considered him a “dear, dear friend.”

“I think so much of him as a lawyer, and he was a fine, fine lawyer,” Steele said. “More importantly than that, he was an even better man. He was extremely intelligent, extremely reasonable and, once you were able to see beyond that gruff exterior, you could see what a wonderful, wonderful man he was.”

Judges, attorneys who joined him on cases, and attorneys who opposed him “greatly admired him,” Steele said. “The legal profession is losing a stalwart in the field.”

Son Mike said Maloof’s favorite author was Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper’s Magazine,“because they both had a command of the English language, a similar sense of humor and natural contrarian tendencies.” His father “loved to be the voice of dissent when he thought it was appropriate. I will miss my dad until the day it is my time, and I know so many people feel the same way.”

Besides the law, family and golf, he loved gardening and was known for his tomatoes, said Sally Maloof, his wife of 42 years.

He also loved to travel and he, wife Sally and the Davidsons regularly went on cruises in the Caribbean and Europe.

“He was a great storyteller,” Davidson said. “When he would tell stories of our colorful youth, he would laugh so hard he could hardly finish the story.”

He is survived by his wife, Sally; children Mike Maloof Jr. and Ellen Tatum Maloof; four brothers, Johnny Maloof of St. Simons Island, Jerry Maloof of California, David Maloof and Brian Maloof, both of Atlanta; one sister, Christine Kempton of Atlanta, numerous nieces and nephews.