P. Harris Hines, who retired barely two months ago from his post as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, died Sunday in a car accident, the court’s spokeswoman told the Daily Report.
The spokeswoman, Jane Hansen, said she was told the news by current Chief Justice Harold Melton and had heard from family friends of Hines. “Everyone is in a state of shock,” she said,
Hansen said the court was just beginning to learn details of the accident, from which Hines’ wife, Helen, was not seriously injured. She said the accident occurred on Interstate 85 North near Cleveland Avenue around 3 p.m.
Hines and his wife were returning from Newnan, where they had gone to watch their granddaughter sing at their son’s church, Hansen said.
Hines was 75, the age state law says that justices must retire or risk losing their pension.
Melton issued a statement Sunday night, saying: “We are all shocked and devastated. 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,” Melton added, “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.”
When Hines retired on Aug. 31, he had practiced law for 50 years, 44 years of that on the bench, including more than two decades on the Supreme Court.
Hines told the Daily Report on his last day at work that he’d miss oral arguments. “I like to hear good attorneys argue before the court,” he said.
He said he also will miss writing opinions and “most of all … the warm friendship and collegiality of the court.”
Gov. Nathan Deal in September signed an executive order appointing Hines as a senior appellate court justice, meaning Hines could fill in on the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals when needed.
The Daily Report will have more on this story Monday.