Cartersville attorney Lester Tate held up a long wooden cylinder, clad in metal points at both ends with rectangular holes cut in the middle, and asked if anyone could identify it.
Most of the 300 or so attending the Cartersville-Bartow Chamber of Commerce quarterly luncheon stared blankly or shrugged their shoulders.
The object, a shuttle used for weaving cotton textiles at mills all over the South, kept the threads, and at least one attorney, firmly in place.
“I keep this shuttle in my office to remind me of a couple of things,” he said. “I think of all the sacrifices my family made so I could be the first to go to college. The second thing is the people that I represent — people like my parents — and how it’s my job to go into a court house and be their champion. I hope I never forget that.”
Tate was called on to speak after his former mentor, Bobby Lee Cooke, 84, one of the South’s best-known defense attorneys and whom many believe was the model for Andy Griffith’s character in the television series “Matlock,” fell and broke several ribs.
He spoke of the need to recognize the importance of America’s court system.
“It seems like for the past month, you turn on the television or the computer, and you see news of shootings and protests and counter protests and political divisions where folks on different sides paint very different pictures of what is going on,” he said. “You wonder if we live in a country where we can’t agree on anything anymore. It seems like we can’t even agree on three words. The Clinton and Trump camps have their three words. One says ‘I’m with her,’ while the other says, ‘I’m with you.’ But there’s still three words I think we can all agree on when we, as we did a few minutes ago, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and end it with ‘justice for all.’
“Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, white or black, male or female, young, old, we all want to live in a just society. We want a place where we feel that people get what they deserve and people are judged not by what they are but by what they have contributed. We have had the same commonlaw system in the United States that we brought from England — a system that allows jurors, individuals citizens just like you, to hear evidence and make decisions.”
Tate said when he served as chairman of Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission, people came from as far away as Ukraine to learn about the American system of justice.”
“Our judicial system is the key to solving our problems,” he said. “I hope you will join me in promoting this sytem for it can truly affect change.”