On Feb. 24, 2013, John Stokes, the former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, died suddenly as a result of a fall in his home. John was 88 years old, but looked 45, and was still active as a trial attorney.
I met John in 1974. I was one year out of law school, and was an assistant Essex County prosecutor in Newark, N.J. John was the U.S. attorney in Atlanta and hired me to be an assistant U.S. attorney.
At the time, the U.S. attorney's office was in the old Post Office building, which now houses the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. I joined the office after Bruce Kirwan, who became the first federal public defender in Georgia, and Charles Pannell, who is now a U.S. District judge, had left the office. Other attorneys in the office were J. Owen Forrester, now a U.S. District Court judge, Dorothy Beasley, who was on the Georgia Court of Appeals, Bill Gaffney, who recently retired from the U.S. attorney's office, Gale McKenzie, who is still an assistant U.S. attorney, Rob Boas, who became in house counsel for Coca-Cola, Gerrilyn Brill, who is now a U.S. magistrate judge, Richard Horder, who became in house counsel for Georgia Pacific, and Steve Ludwick, Stanley Baum, William Turnipseed and Beverly Bates, who all left the office to open successful private practices.
A former Navy fighter pilot during World War II, John had a pragmatic, common-sense approach to how the office should operate. He wanted everyone in his office to be polite, professional, prepared and unafraid to walk into a courtroom to try a case, no matter the defendant or opposing counsel. He also wanted the attorneys and the staff to be "an office family." We worked on cases together, observed each other in trial, and were always giving each other advice.
John, an outstanding trial attorney, was always available to give advice, and he made the office a great place to be a trial attorney.
After his term as U.S. attorney, John became the U.S. marshal for the Middle District of Georgia, and then went on to be an effective criminal defense attorney right up to the time of his unfortunate death.
I, and all who met or worked for or with John, are not only better attorneys, but better people for knowing him.
Jerry Froelich, Atlanta