Dedication To Detail Defines A Career
Randolph Thrower's unwavering thoroughness is a hallmark of his career, from Sutherland to the IRS
Editor's note: In 2008, the Daily Report selected Randolph Thrower as one of three Georgia "Legal Legends" (along with former Gov. Carl Sanders and 11th Circuit Judge Phyllis A. Kravitch). The story, republished below, was written by former Daily Report associate editor Janet L. Conley.
At 95, Randolph W. Thrower has seen his share of the foibles and failings of humankind.
In nearly seven decades spent practicing law, he's gone head-to-head with a U.S. president-and lost his job in the process; resisted political pressure to place a man later jailed for his part in the Watergate break-in into a top government post; rooted out Communist sympathizers for the FBI and seen a defendant he represented in a capital case put to death for a crime he may not have committed.
That's enough to make almost anyone disillusioned, cynical or both. But that's not what happened to Thrower, who's maintained both his sense of humor and his well-deserved reputation as a moral compass for the legal community for longer than many lawyers now practicing have been alive.
Thrower, who spent most of his long career as a tax lawyer at Sutherland and its predecessor firms, never has been a man to shy away from a challenge. As one of his daughters, Patricia T. Barmeyer, a partner at King & Spalding, put it, "He was just always willing to be a leader and to direct leadership in a way that made the right thing seem like the easy thing."
Ease surrounds him now. On a late summer afternoon, he sits with Margaret, his wife of nearly 70 years; Barmeyer, the second of his five children; and a visitor in the cool, dim living room of his home near Bobby Jones Golf Course. Ice tinkles in sweating glasses of Coca-Cola; melt-away lemon cookies release tiny poufs of powdered sugar when the air moves; an antique china clock, decorated with delicate baroque figures, reigns gently over the mantel. But Thrower, who practiced law actively until 2002, when he was 89, never sought ease in his career.
Ask him to name the most meaningful moments of that career and he won't even hesitate. He'll lean forward into the mote-filled late afternoon sunlight to discuss what he believes was the most challenging part of that 66-year odyssey.
"I guess it was to be commissioner of Internal Revenue," he says, encapsulating in a few innocuous words three tumultuous years.
Thrower served in the top job at the IRS from 1969 to 1971, a time span framed at one end by the height of the Vietnam War and at the other by the beginning of the end of the Nixon administration. Against that backdrop, the IRS post was, in many ways, the job that launched Thrower's reputation as the ethics champion of the bar.
That's because it was a job that President Richard M. Nixon and the men surrounding him wanted to politicize-and Thrower wouldn't let them.