On behalf of the State Bar of Georgia, I am writing to express condolences to the family, colleagues and friends of former Chief Justice Harold G. Clarke of the Supreme Court of Georgia on his passing last week.
Throughout his five decades in the legal profession, Justice Clarke personified the ideal of service to the public and the justice system, working tirelessly to promote the cause of justice, uphold the rule of law and protect the rights of all citizens.
A native of Forsyth, he served his country as an Army veteran of World War II, having been assigned as managing editor of the Pacific Stars & Stripes in Japan.
His distinguished career in the legal profession began in 1950. For many years, he practiced law and published the local newspaper in Forsyth. He served 10 years in the Georgia House of Representatives.
His contributions to the legal profession and the justice system were numerous and significant, even before his appointment to the Supreme Court. He was one of the movers and shakers in the early 1960s who shepherded the unification of the State Bar of Georgia through the legislative process, and he served ably as president of the State Bar in 1976-77.
The mission statement of the Chief Justice's Commission on Professionalism was inspired by calling lawyers to the following tasks, in the words of Justice Clarke:
1. To recognize that the reason for the existence of lawyers is to act as problem solvers performing their service on behalf of the client while adhering at all times to the public interest;
2. To utilize their special training and natural talents in positions of leadership for societal betterment;
3. To adhere to the proposition that a social conscience and devotion to the public interest stand as essential elements of lawyer professionalism.
Appointed by Gov. George Busbee in 1979, Justice Clarke served on the state's highest court for 15 years, a time of great change in the judicial branch of state government. He retired in 1994 as chief justice of a court that better reflected Georgia's diversity, with two women and two African-American justices.