Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Bobby Lee Cook

 Bobby Lee Cook, one of America's most celebrated lawyers, died peacefully at his mountain home in Cloudland, Georgia, on February 19th, surrounded by family. He was 94. 

Bobby Lee was born in Chattoogaville, outside the small northwest Georgia town of Lyerly, on February 12, 1927, where he was raised in a home without running water, helping run the family's modest grocery store and keep up with the farm chores. From this rural beginning, however, the son of Paul Cook and Alma Edge Cook embarked on a life's journey that few could have then imagined. He took his first step into the wider world when, as a teenager, he enrolled in Gordon Academy a military school, where he learned the value of personal discipline, duty, and a robust education. 

These values were further shaped by World War II. As soon as he graduated from high school, he lied about his age (then only 17) to enlist in the Navy. He first saw the Atlantic Ocean from St. Simons, Georgia on his way to combat in the Pacific. He never forgot that sight, which kindled a lifelong love of the Georgia Coast, and he later would buy homes on Sea Island, Georgia. During Naval training in New Orleans, Cook was also struck by how one would see ships burning off the coast on nearly a nightly basis. He boxed in the Navy, honing his innate fighting spirit which he never lost. 

Peacetime brought new transitions that each played key roles in the rest of this life. First, he continued his education: Upon returning from the War, he attended the University of Alabama and Vanderbilt Law School. Second, he found his life partner. Bobby Lee married June Hays on June 8th, 1948, in Summerville, Georgia, a true June wedding that started a sixty-seven-year partnership.   


Bobby Lee began his law practice in 1949 in Summerville, Georgia, and that practice from its inception represented his values: personal discipline, erudite temperament, duty to others, justice for all people from all walks of life, and (not the least important characteristic) an indomitable fighting spirit. He represented labor unions when it was unpopular, and moonshiners when it might not have been convenient. As his practice grew, word of his abilities spread, and he developed a reputation as a talented and successful trial lawyer. 

While Bobby Lee served in the Georgia Legislature and once ran for Congress, his calling truly was in the courtroom. As time went on, he was called there by many, some of whom paid substantial six and seven figure fees for his skilled advocacy. He represented the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, Robert Vesco, C.H. Butcher, Jr., Mike Thevis, Daniel Paradies, and, for decades, was hired for, or consulted on, nearly every high-profile case in Georgia. His practice went on to transcend Georgia. Among the more than a hundred and fifty acquittals he achieved in murder cases during his career, he won murder trials in Germany and Vietnam, and his career is believed to have inspired the television show Matlock. One of his more colorful cases, in Savannah, is chronicled in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. 

Among all of these cases, though, perhaps the one he was most proud of was the Matthews murder case. That case embodied his abiding sense that justice should never, ever be denied to anyone from any walk of life. Cook spent over $50,000 of his own money and years of his career to overturn murder convictions wrongfully obtained in Cobb County, Georgia. 

He walked with kings, but never lost the common touch. Though he was friends with and socialized with Justice Douglas, others on the Court, numerous politicians, dignitaries and business leaders, Cook never forgot his roots. On Saturday mornings, he opened his office doors to local residents for whom he offered his counsel, usually at no charge. Cook was also a tireless and gifted teacher and mentored numerous younger lawyers, spoke at uncounted seminars and was generously giving of his time to others working to solve thorny issues encountered in their own cases. He was a tireless worker and early riser, and often instructed colleagues "Call me tomorrow morning at 7.”


Bobby Lee Cook was recognized with lifetime achievement awards by both the National and Georgia Associations of Criminal Defense Lawyers (GACDL), Georgia State University College of Law School's 2017 Ben F. Johnson, Jr. Public Service Award, GreenLaw's Lifetime Achievement Award, the Small Town Lawyer Made Good Award, (presented by the State Bar of Washington), inducted into the American Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame, and many more countless other awards too numerous to list. 

Even while these well-deserved honors accumulated, he never lost his razor-sharp wit. His award from GACDL included the honor of having his portrait hung in the Georgia Supreme Court. When presented with this, Cook quipped, “I’d rather be hung in the Supreme Court than by the Supreme Court.” Similarly, while he always appreciated the recognition, Cook never rested on his laurels. He practiced law until virtually the time of his death. He was universally recognized as the dean of criminal defense lawyers in Georgia, and his death is mourned across the country. 


Bobby Lee was predeceased by his wife, June, his son Bobby Lee Cook, Jr., and his son-in-law Lewis Branch Sutton Connelly and Roger Wheeler Williams. He is survived by his daughters Kristina Cook Graham and Sara Cook Williams; his grandchildren, Sarah Holston O’Reagan. Jessica Wheat Cook Hale, Christopher Sutton Connelly, Jeffrey Scott Connelly, Sarah Elizabeth Connelly Turner, and Anna Lee Williams Jones; great-grandchildren, Patrick Aidan Fell, Morgan Aeron Cook Hale, Lillian Grace Connelly, Fiona Bess Connelly, Branch Hays Connelly, Thomasin June Connelly, Vivian Hays Jones, and Olive Kristina Connelly Turner. 

Due to coronavirus concerns and the safety of others, it was Bobby Lee's wish that his funeral be confined to a private family service. A more fitting memorial service will be held at a later time. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be sent to the Boys and Girls Club of Chattooga County, P.O. Box 636, Summerville, Ga. 30747, or Georgia State College of Law, Office of Development, P.O. Box 4037, Atlanta, Ga. 30303.  Earle Rainwater Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Betty Thomas

Elizabeth (Betty) Lott Thomas passed away on February 18, 2021 in Nashville, TN, following a brief illness, in the presence of her family. She was born July 25, 1925, in Hoschton, GA to Zella Pirkle Lott and Lester Judd Lott. Her childhood, partly spent on a dairy farm, was full of love despite times of economic hardship as the country entered the Depression.

Betty graduated from Berry College in Rome, GA in 1946. She said that her first night at Berry, she was more homesick than any time she could remember, but the next day began a wonderful adventure. At Berry, Betty was active in theater, playing Jo in the school’s production of Little Women. And when the yearbook photographer left school for the Army, she stepped in and took and developed all the yearbook pictures. After graduating from Berry, she stayed for a year as the assistant to the Dean of Women. During that year, she met Malcolm Thomas, a Summerville native who had recently returned from military service. Betty and Malcolm were married in 1947 at Berry’s Frost chapel.

Betty and Malcolm settled in Summerville with their son Steve, and later welcomed the arrival of daughters Celia and Carol. Their lives in Summerville were marked by deep ties to family, church, and friends. Gatherings at Lake Weiss filled many summer days, with picnic baskets, life jackets, and folding chairs set out for visiting. Betty submitted to gentle pressure and learned at the lake to waterski but liked to say that the best part was that she never had to do it again. Betty became a teacher when Carol entered school, and fifth and sixth grades were her calling. She was dedicated and loved by her students, and after retiring she took pleasure in being approached by former students with a warm hello and thank you. She and Malcolm enjoyed traveling after they both retired and their trips sometimes began with “Let’s go to Dover (Air Force Base) and see where the next ‘Space Available’ flight is headed.” When that once resulted in planning for Switzerland and winding up in Greece--not a good climate match--she said that was half the fun.

She was a devoted partner, supporting Malcolm when he became ill and grieving his loss. Betty was a woman of deep and abiding faith. Her church became especially important to her after Malcolm’s death and she was a founding member of Horizon Baptist Fellowship. She especially connected with the social ministry of the church, actively participating in providing food and responding to other critical needs in the community. She also warmly welcomed visits from her children and grandchildren, and always greeted their arrival with fresh brownies which did not last long. When, in 2011 Betty moved to Nashville to be near two of her children, moving away from that Horizon community was perhaps the hardest part. But she was lovingly welcomed and took great joy in being near family. And she appreciated the caring community she found at Park Manor/Abe’s Garden where she lived.

Betty was unfailingly gracious. She exhibited a warmth and caring that was remarkable for its consistency and genuineness. She was loath to speak ill of anyone and pinned to her kitchen bulletin board decades ago a poem called “The Critic,” which cautioned against criticizing others because their circumstances were not fully known. Betty was a beautiful woman who understood that true beauty comes from within.

Betty is survived by her children Steve Thomas (Jeanne) and Carol West (Olin) of Nashville and Celia Thomas of Alexandria, Va. She is also survived by her grandchildren Jim Thomas (Sloan), Clayton Thomas, Robert West (Rachel), and Emily West of Nashville and William Martindale of Washington, D.C., and step-grandchildren Tracy Brockhouse (Zach) of Portland Me., Hunter West (Jinanne) of Nashville, and Charlotte Middleton (Shane) of Reston, Va. Great-grandchildren are Holden and James Thomas, and step great-grandchildren are Annabelle and Elliott Brockhouse, Annelise, Hollis, and Anson West, and Austin and Tallin Middleton, as well as numerous nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her husband Malcolm Thomas, her parents, and her siblings Robert Lott, Jane Verdel, and Sarah Townes.

The family will have a graveside service. There will be a memorial service to honor Betty’s life at a later time when it is safe to gather. Those who wish may direct a memorial contribution to Horizon Baptist Fellowship, 1216 HWY 114, Summerville, GA 30747. Earle Rainwater Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Miss Willie Frances Housch

MISS WILLIE FRANCES HOUSCH, age 99, of Back Penn Road, Summerville, Georgia passed away Friday morning, February 19, 2021, in Rome, Georgia. She was born in Summerville, Georgia, Pennville Community on May 29, 1921; a daughter of the late John Archie and Grace Doster Housch. Miss Housch was a member of Trion United Methodist Church for over fifty years and was retired inventory secretary for Riegle Textile Corporation. In addition to Parents She was preceded in death by sisters, Zilpha Bankey, Ruby Packer, and Lois Housch, Brothers, Ralph Housch, Roy Housch, Elbert Housch, and Doster (Pete) Housch, nieces and nephews, Jeanette Housch, Ann Housch Brooks, Charles Housch, and Glen Packer.

Surviving are nieces and nephews, Jane Parker, Kay Worsham, Dale Housch, William Wayne Bankey, Sue Beall, Yvonne Flowers, Ronnie Housch; several Great Nieces and Nephews.

Funeral services will be held Sunday, February 21th, at 2:00 P.M. from the Trion United Methodist Church with Rev. David Autry, Rev. James Hannah, and Rev. Ronnie Flowers officiating, interment in Chapel Hill Cemetery. Active Pallbearers Jeremy Worsham, Erick Housch, Ben Housch, Derek Parker, David Parker, and Jason Flowers. Visitation will be Sunday from 1 until 2 P.M. at the Church. Lieu of flowers contributions may be made to Trion United Methodist Church.

Earle Rainwater Funeral Home in charge of arrangements for MISS WILLIE FRANCES HOUSCH.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Rev. Jimmy C. Bryant

REV. JIMMY C. BRYANT, age 80, lost a long battle with an aggressive illness on February 16, 2021. Although Bryant lost his battle with illness he gained access to his Heavenly home.

Brother Jimmy was born in New Albany, MS. on July 14, 1940, the son of the late Carl Clyde Bryant, Memphis, Tn., and Jewel Roberts Martin, Tupelo, Ms. He was a former on-air personality at WVOM Luka, MS. and WBIP, Booneville, MS., where he was known as Booneville’s Morning Mayor. He served the City of Summerville as Seat Four Councilman for two terms before retiring. In the later part of his second term, he served as Interim Mayor following Summerville’s mayor’s retirement. One accomplishment that he was proud of was getting a Basketball Court located in the West Summerville area. He was a Veteran of the U. S. Navy and a member of the Disabled American Veteran’s Post #6, Marietta, GA. He served several terms as Moderator of the Chattooga Baptist Association and several terms as a Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Committee member and the Georgia Baptist Foundation. As long as health permitted, he had a live Facebook broadcast, “Adventures Through God’s Word,” the preaching ministry of Jimmy Bryant each Sunday. He was a regular writer for the GoodNews Christian Magazine, Rome, had articles published in Church Administration Magazine, authored a book, “Confessions of A Baptist Minister,” and a booklet, “When The Story of my Life Is Told.”

In addition to his parents and grandparents, he was preceded in death by a half-sister, Betty Lois Martin

Campbell. Brother Jimmy is survived by his wife, The love of his life and greatest companion, caregiver, and best friend, Esther Timbes Bryant, Summerville; The Bryant’s enjoyed a wonderful life together for 60 years; two sons, Michael Carl Bryant (Susan), Summerville and James Alan Bryant (Diane), Lyerly. Three grandchildren, Brandi Nicole Pierce, Summerville, Jessica Diane Willingham (Adam), Lyerly; James Aaron Bryant (Katie), Oxford, AL.; Two great-grandchildren, Reed James Willingham, Lyerly and Avery Ann Willingham, Lyerly and a host of fellow laborers and special friends.

During 56 years of ministry, he pastored Seven churches in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia. One of those churches was South Summerville Baptist for almost seventeen years. He also served two churches as interim Pastor; Mount Pisgah in Ringgold, Pleasant Grove in Summerville where he served for just over 14 years.

He attended Booneville High School, was a graduate of Northeast Mississippi Junior College Booneville, MS, Blue Mountain College, Blue Mountain, MS; Graduate work at the University of North Alabama, Florence, AL.

Funeral Services for Rev. Jimmy C. Bryant will be conducted from the First Baptist Church, Summerville, Georgia Friday, February 19, 2021 at 2:30 pm with Mr. Tom Underwood, a dear friend and Deacon at a former church, his son, Michael Carl Bryant, and granddaughter, Jessie Willingham officiating. Active pallbearers will be Aaron Bryant, Adam Willingham, Jerry Mixon, Scott Everett and Ray Davis, and Sam Jones. Honorary pallbearers are friends at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church and South Summerville Baptist Church. Interment will be in the Pleasant Grove Church Cemetery. The Family will receive friends at the church Friday from 12:30 – 2:30.

Earle Rainwater Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements for Rev. Jimmy C. Bryant.

Mazie Crow Purcell

MAZIE CROW PURCELL, 102, of Summerville, passed away at home surrounded by family, Monday, February 15, 2021. Born in Sandy Cross, Franklin County, Georgia, on July 5, 1918, she was the third child of Revie James and Noah Simpson Crow.

She attended Habersham College and John Hopkins University. During WWII, she served with Civil Service, first in Baltimore, Maryland, and later in Anniston, Alabama, from 1941-1947 as a corps driver for dignitaries visiting the Munitions Ordnance Depot.

She was a member of Summerville First United Methodist Church.
Mrs. Purcell worked for Wright Garment Company, Georgia Rug Mill and Jackson's Drug Store as a bookkeeper. She enjoyed genealogy and sponsored participants in the Crow DNA project. She assisted in research for the publication of The Purcells of Georgia with her husband Maylon H. Purcell and Dr. Claude Purcell. She was a member of the Joseph Habersham DAR Chapter and Alfred Holt Colquitt UDC Chapter.

Mrs. Purcell was preceded in death by her husband, Maylon H. Purcell, siblings: Lucius Crow, Imogene Hobbs, Christopher Barton Crow, Tokee Toler, James Crow, Barbara Ann Saylors, and Jerry Crow. Survivors include two daughters, Nancy Purcell Hyte of Atlanta and Kathy Purcell Floyd (Gary) of Cartersville; grandchildren are Jamie Brown (Eric), Noah Hyte, Rebekah Hyte, and Louis Hyte and two great-grandchildren, James Brown and Alexander Brown.

In lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to Summerville First Methodist Church for Children's Ministry.

A graveside ceremony will be held Saturday, February 20, 2021, at Rose Hill Cemetery in Royston, at 1 pm, with masks and socially distancing. Earle Rainwater Funeral Home, in Summerville and Pruitt Funeral Home, in Royston are in charge of arrangements.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Mrs. Emye (Ma) Lenderman

MRS. EMYE (MA) LENDERMAN, age 93, of West Washington Street, Summerville, Georgia passed away Wednesday afternoon, February 10, 2021, in a Rome hospital. A native Chattooga Countian, she was born on February 26, 1927, to the late Oscar H. and Thelma Julia Love Perry. Mrs. Lenderman was a homemaker and member of Summerville First Baptist Church.

Surviving are daughters, Jeanne Lenderman Copeland (Dewayne) and Nancy Lenderman McConkey (Roger, Sr.); son, Dr. Benny Lenderman; sisters, Wylene Perry Bynum (Fred) and Montyne Perry Thompson (Verlon); grandchildren, Angela Johnson Veitch, Melissa Johnson Queen, Amanda Johnson Peters, Roger McConkey, Jr., and Lance McConkey; great-grandchildren, Caleb Veitch, Gracelyn Veitch, Alexandra Peters, Thomas Peters, Alex Queen, Aubrey McConkey, and Roger (Liam) McConkey, III; several Nieces and Nephews also survive.

Private graveside service will be held Saturday, February 13th. Interment in Pleasant Grove Cemetery, with Dr. Kenneth Summey and Rev. Sean Wegener officiating. Active Pallbearers Roger McConkey, Jr., Lance McConkey, Roger McConkey, Sr., Dewayne Copeland, Kevin Queen, and Matt Veitch; Honorary Pallbearers Verlon Thompson, and Fred Bynum. The Family request no food and in lieu of flowers suggest contributions to Gideons International or St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Earle Rainwater Funeral Home in charge of arrangements for Mrs. Emye (Ma) Lenderman.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Mr. Gary W. Williamson

MR. GARY W. WILLIAMSON, age 65, of Roberts Street, Summerville, Georgia, passed away Wednesday, February 3, 2021, at his residence following an extended illness. A native of Fort Payne, Alabama, He was born on November 6, 1955, to the late Joy Youngblood Miller and Billy Ray Williamson, who survives. Mr. Williamson was an overhauler for Mt. Vernon Mills.

Surviving are his wife, Teresa Craig Williamson; son, Billy Wayne Williamson; father, Billy Ray Williamson; sisters, Glenda Sue Goodson, Deborah Elaine Prince, Sandra Darlene Hubbard, Tammy Gentry, and Darlene Elizabeth Metcalf; brothers, George Miller, Terry Miller, and Roger Williamson; grandchildren, Tyler Wayne Williamson, Jacob Allen Williamson, and Skyrah Kaylyn Williamson; several nieces and nephews also survive.

Funeral service will be held on Saturday, February 6, 2021, at 1 p.m. from the Graveside in Summerville Cemetery with Pastor Barry Brown and Rev. Leon Craig officiating. Active Pallbearers are Randy Wilson, Bubba Wilson, Hugh Teague, Shorty Craig, DJ Craig, and Charles Hubbard. Honorary Pallbearers are Logan Todd, Kim “Tim” Teague, Jess McManamy, Daniel Metcalf, Tyler Williamson, and Jacob Williamson.

Earle Rainwater Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements for Mr. Gary Wayne Williamson who passed away Wednesday.