Lawyers frequently look to the past, usually in search of a prior action or legal decision that strengthens their case.
But the remnants of the past outside the offices of Augusta Circuit Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet and other Superior Court judges are of a much more literal type.
About 40 portraits that were scattered around the halls of the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building were collected and cleaned this year before the transition to the new Augusta Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse on James Brown Boulevard.
They depict mostly judges, but there are a handful of attorneys, too. Subjects date from the Colonial days of George Walton through a photo composite of all the members of the 2010 Augusta Bar Association.
The faces peering out from ornate, gilded frames carry mostly stern expressions and represent a different era of Georgia’s judicial history. Among their number is Andrew Jackson Miller, deceased 1856, who had to get a special exception from the General Assembly so he could join the bar at age 19. Also displayed is William Eve, who served as municipal judge for 37 years beginning in 1881.
Last week, a composite of the 1941 Augusta Bar Association was added to the collection through a donation by Judge J. Randal Hall of the federal Southern District of Georgia.
“I felt it was important from a historical perspective,” he said.
The composite is a copy of a copy that hangs in the federal courthouse. The original belongs to U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Susan Barrett, whose grandfather, William M. Barrett, is featured in the composite.
The renovations of the photographs and oil-and-charcoal paintings were coordinated by Historic Augusta Inc. An anonymous donation covered the roughly $40,000 cost, Executive Director Erick Montgomery said.
“They’re part of our important history,” he said.