Those who know Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harris Hines say he had two qualities that made him an exceptional legal mind: hard work and kindness.
His work ethic he picked up from his father Ruben, who was stationed at Fort McPherson during World War II. The kindness, he inherited from his mother Edith, who taught grade school in Atlanta.
Hines had been a full-time judge from the time he was appointed to Cobb’s state court in 1974 by then-Gov. Jimmy Carter to his retirement as Chief Justice on Aug. 31.
During his time on Cobb’s Superior Court, he decided custody battles, homicide cases, and oversaw three death penalty cases.
Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin spoke to the MDJ from Grady Hospital Sunday night, where Helen Hines was recovering from injuries sustained in the accident that took Justice Hines’ life. Tumlin said he had received over 15 calls in the last hour from other Marietta residents who were also in shock at Hines’ passing.
“He’s been a good friend for over 40 years when he first moved to Marietta,” Tumlin said. “As a professional, a leader in the community, a leader in the church, he was a friend to me and just an outstanding human being… He’s going to leave a big hole in this community. People loved him.”
Hines’ appointment as Chief Justice coincided with his receiving the 2016 Marietta Daily Journal Citizen of the Year Award.
On that occasion, local luminaries praised the judge’s legal prowess and character.
“If I could describe Harris Hines in one word, it would be unflappable,” said Republican Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson. “He’s the kind of guy you can put your faith and confidence in that he will do what’s right.”
Former Democratic Congressmen Buddy Darden of Marietta agreed.
“He always works to achieve a consensus, and that’s what it’s all about being chief justice … bringing all the people together and keeping all the animals under the tent,” Darden said.
The man who would go on to replace Hines as Chief Justice, current Chief Justice Harold Melton, said Hines has been a mentor since Hines read an article about Melton in the Marietta Daily Journal in 1988 when Melton was a recent Wheeler High School graduate.
Melton said Hines tracked him down, invited him to lunch and offered him an opportunity to work for him.
“We are all shocked and devastated,” Melton said. “Former Chief Justice P. Harris Hines was a giant of a man. Because of the love he so freely extended to others, he was loved and cherished by every member of this Court, by our staff, and by just about every person who ever met him. For me personally, he was a mentor and one of my dearest friends. My heart is broken. Our thoughts and prayers are with his beloved wife, Helen, their son and daughter, and their families.”