Harris Hines rose to the most prominent post on the state’s highest court. He held the respect of the governors who appointed him, the jurists who served with him and the lawyers who appeared before him.
Despite his legal prominence and towering intellect, the recently retired chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court was remembered Tuesday by those who knew him best as a courtly Southern gentleman who loved God, his family and the Georgia Bulldogs. He delighted in simple pleasures like a Varsity chili dog or a walk on the beach at St. Simons Island and wasn’t above a gag like stuffing Christmas stockings with dollar-store treasures. His legacies run the gamut from judicial reform to his thoughtful teenage grandkids.
“He’s touched all of us for the better. His wisdom, his kindness and his laughter will be sorely missed,” said Gov. Nathan Deal, who became emotional during his remarks at Harris’ funeral, held Tuesday at First Presbyterian Church in Marietta.
Hines, 75, died Nov. 4 in a car wreck. He is survived by his wife, Helen, his children James Harris “Hap” Hines and his wife Kelly; daughter Mary Margaret Doyle and her husband Clem; and grandchildren Edith Anne Hines, Preston Harris Hines II, Harris Clay Doyle and Charles Hines Doyle.
“My father was my hero,” said Hap Hines, a past Marietta High School and University of Georgia football player now serving as athletic director and assistant principal at East Coweta High School. “He never once gave me a wrong answer on what to do and the way to do it and was always that soft voice in my ear when it came to choosing right from wrong.”
Hundreds packed the church’s Great Hall to standing-room only status (with overflow crowd’s filling the much smaller, historic sanctuary and the church library) prompting the Marietta Police Department to issue several traffic alerts. Mourners included past and present members of the Georgia Supreme Court and members of the local bench, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, Attorney General Chris Carr and his predecessor Sam Olens, former Gov. Roy Barnes, former U.S. Rep. Buddy Darden, Marietta Mayor Thunder Tumlin, Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren and former Secretary of State Brian Kemp, whom the Hines family thanked as “Gov.-elect Kemp” from the pulpit. (Stacey Abrams faces daunting odds and a tightening window in her legal quest to force Kemp, who leads her by nearly 60,000 votes, into a runoff.)
“I’ve never been a part of a funeral quite like this one,” said First Presbyterian Senior Pastor Joe Evans. “Of course, I’ve never met anyone quite like Harris Hines before, either. ‘Justice Hines’ is what I always called him. I couldn’t bring myself to call him ‘Harris.” I wanted to show him due respect, although so many of us are here today not because of the high office that he held or the respect that was due him, but because he made us feel like we were one of his best friends.”
Harris’ former intern and longtime friend Harold Melton, now the chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, shared thoughts during the service. His recollections ranged from Harris’ role as a legal mentor to his exacting iced tea order (half-sweet, half-unsweet) to his unwavering practice of issuing a sincere “please” and “thank you.”
“He was a wonderful man with a beautiful, beautiful spirit,” said Melton, who also became emotional during the service. “As we enter this Thanksgiving season, I promise to say a special thanks that he shared that spirit with me and made me a better person.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.