Plans are being made for a memorial service to honor retired Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice P. Harris Hines, at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Great Hall of his church, First Presbyterian of Marietta.
Because of seating limitations and expectations of a big turnout, plans are being made to stream the service on the internet, pending approval by the church session, which functions as a board of directors or a legislature, and is made up of ordained elders. Hines had been one of them and once served that session as the clerk, who keeps the official records.
“We make available our Live Stream on our website, Facebook, and to other parts of our building as requested and approved by our members and governing body,” Melissa Ricketts, director of technology for the church, said in an email Wednesday. “As soon as this service is confirmed to be broadcast via Live Stream, it will be scheduled and notice will be on our website here at http://fpcmarietta.org/resources/live-stream-services/.”
First Presbyterian Church of Marietta is at 189 Church St., just a few blocks north of the Cobb County State Courthouse, where Hines first served as a judge.
Hines was killed Sunday afternoon when his car overturned on Interstate 85 near downtown Atlanta. His wife, Helen Hines, was with him, and survived the crash.
Officers were called at about 3 p.m. to a single-car crash at I-85 North at Cleveland Avenue, according to an Atlanta Police Department report. “The initial investigation indicates the driver was changing lanes when it appears he lost control of the vehicle and came in contact with the guardrail causing the vehicle to overturn,” the preliminary report said. Harris and Helen Hines were both taken by ambulance to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead and she was treated for minor injuries.
Longtime friends of the justice, Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin and former U.S. Rep. George “Buddy” Darden of Pope McGlamry, said they gathered with Helen Hines at Grady’s Level I trauma center—one on her right and one on her left. She told them her husband veered too close to the concrete median, then overcorrected and flipped. They were on their way home to Marietta after visiting their son’s family in Newnan. They had watched their granddaughter sing during worship at her church that morning.
It was supposed to be a routine day for a couple devoted to faith, family, church and community. Tumlin said he had seen Hines Friday night at the Marietta High School football game watching their grandson play—same as the previous Friday, except that night it rained and they sat together and watched anyway. The mayor said the couple could be seen walking the mile from their home to the Marietta square typically three nights a week to have dinner.
“They lived a very active life, very open to the world,” Tumlin said. “Besides being a giver, he was there for everyone.”
Hines touched so many people beyond his public job, Tumlin said. In addition to being an elder and clerk at First Presbyterian Church, Hines had been a trustee at the local Kennesaw State University Foundation. He was in the Kiwanis club, including time as president. He was on the inaugural board of directors for the local Girls Club and was a past YMCA. president. He’d been voted Cobb County’s “Most Admired Community Leader.” He was an Eagle Scout.
Hines had just stepped down as the high court’s chief at the end of August when he approached the mandatory retirement age for Georgia appellate judges. He celebrated his 75th birthday in September. That same month, Chief Justice Harold Melton succeeded Hines, and Presiding Justice David Nahmias stepped up to replace Melton in the court’s No. 2 role.
Hines often told the story of how his wife had the idea to hire Harold Melton as a judicial intern. They didn’t know each other, but she had read a newspaper article about a college student from Cobb County being elected senior class president at Auburn University, in her native Alabama. Hines dutifully called Melton. They had lunch—and continued to do so regularly from then on.
“I don’t know if he’s my younger brother or my oldest son, but I love him dearly,” Hines often said of Melton.
Melton also was with Helen Hines at the hospital Sunday. On Monday morning, he turned to Nahmias.
As the “all rise” announcement came, a somber nine entered under the Latin inscription, “Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall.”
“The court will begin its scheduled oral argument session in a few minutes. But first things first,” Nahmias said, delivering the tragic news.
“The justices of this court wanted to start this public session by appearing together—there’s much of the court’s staff here with us in the courtroom—as a sign of respect for a man we loved and admired,” Nahmias said, his strong voice breaking ever so slightly. “Chief Justice Hines was one of Georgia’s great lawyers, judges and public servants, devoted 50 years to the bar, and serving more than 40 years on the bench, including 23 years as a justice of this court. His name and his work will be recalled forever in the law of Georgia. But Harris Hines was an even greater man. Because of the love and kindness 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.”
“We lost him recently as our colleague, but we had hoped and expected to continue to have him as our friend for many years to come. Losing him yesterday leaves a hole in our hearts that will be hard to fill,” Nahmias said.
“Harris was particularly close to Chief Justice Melton, who started his legal career as an intern to then Judge Hines and remained his close friend for three decades. Speaking so soon about the man he followed would be too great a burden on our chief, which is why I have the privilege of speaking for our court today,” Nahmias said. “Our most sincere thoughts and prayers are with Chief Justice Hines’ beloved wife Helen, their son Hap, their daughter Mary Margaret, and their entire family,” Nahmias said.
Friends remembered Hines this week for his devotion to Helen and their children and grandchildren. Their daughter, Mary Margaret Hines Doyle, also lives in Marietta. Her husband is Clem Doyle. They have two sons, Harris Clay and Charles.
James Harris “Hap” Hines lives in Newnan. Hap and his wife, Kelly, have a daughter, Edith Anne, and a son, P. Harris II.
Lawyers remembered Hines this week for his devotion to justice and his kindness. Linda Klein of Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, a past American Bar Association president, recalled his patience and fairness when she was a young lawyer appearing before him for the first time.
“He treated everyone with the utmost respect,” she said.
John Page of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton said Hines helped him get his first job—clerking for the chief judge on his court at the time, Cobb Superior. That job came from a blind call recommended by someone in a Sunday school class.
“He didn’t know me at all,” Page said. “Judge Hines could have easily not met with me, or been too busy after our meeting to recommend me.”
Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Brian Rickman tweeted a memory of being a brand new lawyer and meeting Hines for the first time.
“He treated me just as warmly as when years later I became an appellate judge,” Rickman said. “He was always kind to the person regardless of the position. We should all honor him by emulating him.”