Ed Henning, 80, of Sandy Springs: Promoted mediation

After many years as a trial lawyer, Ed Henning came to the conclusion not all civil disputes needed to be settled by a judge and jury, not by a long shot.

So he started a firm, Henning Mediation and Arbitration Service, intended to nudge contending parties to reach settlements fair to both sides through the good offices of a neutral facilitator. His approach has proven itself. Over the past five years, Henning's firm has negotiated $2 billion worth of settlements, said the firm's president, Richard Colley] of Woodstock.

"Eddie was a trailblazer for mediation," said Judge Jack Etheridge of Atlanta, a senior Superior Court judge and a longtime friend.

"He was a well-trained trial lawyer and adversary, but he came to the realization there could be other venues to resolve disputes than a courtroom," Mr. Etheridge said. "So he took a big chance leaving his law practice to become a mediator, and he did so at a time when there was no general disposition within the legal community toward mediation."

As it turned out, Mr. Etheridge continued, "Eddie had a unique capacity for bringing people together -- which is quite a switch for someone trained as an advocate."

Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Henning and others like him, the Mr. Etheridge went on, "no first-rate lawyer these days can rule out the possibility of a settlement of a dispute through mediation."

Atlanta attorney Bo Chambers remembers the day Mr. Henning, his former partner, came to him and said he wanted to switch from being a litigator to being a mediator.
" 'It's the way of the future, Ed told me, to which I replied, 'I certainly hope not -- it'll put us out of business.' "

"That shows how much I know," Mr. Chambers continued, "Ed turned out to be the father of mediation as it is practiced in Georgia."

Mr. Henning fit the role of mediator very well, said Dr. Beverly Schaffer of Decatur, an Emory University professor of economics.

"Ed was an engaging, empathetic guy and a person of great integrity," she said. "Both sides in a dispute trusted him and his neutrality automatically."

During the 1990s Mr. Henning and Ms. Schaffer taught other lawyers, even judges, the techniques that he had honed in his mediation practice. "Ed was farsighted," she said, "and thought that mediation, properly carried out, could lead to a more peaceful world."

Mr. Henning even hoped his conflict-resolution methods could break one of the sporting world's worst labor relations impasses -- the baseball strike of 1994-95. On Sept. 1, 1994, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a letter to the editor from Mr. Henning suggesting impartial procedures to bring major league owners and ballplayers together. His suggestions went unheeded; the strike led to the cancellation of the 1994 World Series, and the walkout didn't end until April of the following year.

Edward Joseph Henning, 80, died Tuesday at his Sandy Springs home of liver cancer. His memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at H.M. Patterson & Son, Arlington Chapel. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the American Liver Foundation, 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 803, New York, NY 10038.

Mr. Henning's favorite form of relaxation was to be found on the golf course. In his prime he had a low-digit handicap, and he and his son, David Henning of Smyrna, even played the storied courses of Scotland.

For many years Mr. Henning helped in the staging of the Atlanta Classic, a pro tour event held for many years at the Atlanta Country Club. One of his annual duties was as the official starter on the first tee, said his former partner, Mr. Chambers. "Ed used to get the biggest kick out of making announcements like, ‘And now, teeing off is Jack Nicklaus ...' "

Survivors include his wife, Helen Henning, his son, and four grandchildren.