Retired Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Gary Andrews died on Saturday, April 4, 2020. (Court of Appeals)
Photo: Georgia Court of Appeals
Photo: Georgia Court of Appeals

Retired Georgia Judge Gary Andrews, ‘kind and wise,’ dies at 73

In the rare cases that sparked strong dissents, Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Gary Andrews found himself engaged in testy exchanges with his colleagues.

Even so, Andrews remained a close friend to fellow judges, including those who sometimes strongly disagreed with him.

“He never took it personally,” said Joe Chandler, who served as Andrews’ law clerk for every day of his 28 years on the bench. “He was a practical man and a fine judge. He liked to apply common sense to the law.”

Andrews died Saturday at age 73. There will be no service, public or private, until the coronavirus outbreak is at some manageable stage, the Appeals Court said.

“He was an able jurist,” Chief Judge Christopher McFadden said. “I found him to be a kind and wise man beneath his gruff exterior.”

Said Judge Stephen Dillard, “Judge Gary Andrews was my colleague, my dear friend and cherished mentor. I will miss him more than I can express in words.”

Notably reticent on the bench, Andrews spoke at length when his portrait was hung in the courtroom after he retired in July 2018. He became emotional when thanking his late parents and said how much he loved growing up in Chickamauga, calling it “Mayberry, USA.”

Andrews almost didn’t join the legal profession. After graduating from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1971, he was offered a job at a national accounting firm and mailed his acceptance letter at the de facto post office at Hodgson’s drug store in Athens.

But a short while later, someone at the law school told him the attorney general’s office wanted to hire UGA law grads. Andrews said he ran back to Hodgson’s, retrieved his acceptance letter and then drove down to Atlanta, where he landed a job at the AG’s office.

Nine years later, after opening a practice in his hometown, he learned a local judge was not going to seek reelection. Andrews qualified to run and won election to the Superior Court bench for the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit.

In 1985, then-Gov. Joe Frank Harris appointed Andrews to a seat on the Public Service Commission. He served there until 1990, when he ran for a vacant seat on the Court of Appeals, which he won in a runoff.

In 1996, Andrews attracted opposition from two challengers. This included well-financed candidate Mark Merritt, who ran a brazen TV commercial that attacked Andrews for reversing the conviction of a child molester.

The ad, condemned by the state’s judicial watchdog agency, backfired as Merritt went down in defeat. Instead, then-Atlanta lawyer Anne Elizabeth Barnes advanced to a runoff with Andrews, who won once again.

Barnes would later become Andrews’ colleague on the court.

“Even though we often had different views of the law, Judge Andrews was a valued colleague for many years,” Barnes said. “Judge Andrews was always the consummate gentleman, always so very nice and decent. He always looked out for me.”

He is survived by his children: Paige Andrews of Suwanee, Blake Andrews of Atlanta, and Blane Andrews of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and brothers Joe Andrews and Calvin Andrews, both of Chickamauga. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent in Andrews’ memory to the Gordon Lee Alumni Association in Chickamauga.

Read and sign the online guestbook for Judge Gary Andrews

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