Others graduated from law school with Hale Barrett. But few would dispute he was in a class by himself.
“Hale was the best lawyer most of us have ever known,” colleague Pat Rice wrote of him this week. “His intellect and scope of knowledge from the seldom-visited, far-away corners of corporate law to the unimaginable, unsuspected twists and turns and illogic of the internal revenue code were at his fingertips.
“He possessed more wisdom and judgment than anyone I have ever encountered in life or in literature.”
If given the opportunity to map out your best life in advance, you could scarcely have charted a more honorable or impactful course than Hale Barrett’s life took.
Augustan and Georgian through and through, he graduated Richmond Academy and, ultimately, the University of Georgia School of Law – before joining the Hull Barrett law firm in 1955 that his grandfather had started in 1916. After serving in the U.S. Army, he practiced law at the firm for 59 years, helping shepherd some of this region’s major and most important businesses through growth, and through the murky waters of law and real estate in good times and in bad.
“The business and commercial history of the Augusta region for the last 50 years bears the imprint of the legal talent and wise counsel that Hale provided to his clients,” colleague David Hudson wrote to us.
Those clients are a veritable Who’s Who in Augusta and beyond. And so are the beneficiaries of his civic works. He was also a chancellor at his beloved St. Paul’s Episcopal church downtown.
It’s not just what course he took in life; it’s how he did it. He did it with uncommon humility, grace, kindness, humor and an unrelenting sense of wonderment. And he never seemed to think about what was in it for him, eschewing both gratuity and gratuitous praise.
“Hale Barrett was never motivated by personal recognition or gain,” Hudson wrote.
The main word that has kept popping up about Hale Barrett in the days since his passing last Friday at 84 is “integrity” – though Rice is quick to add “wise” and “ethical.”
Good communities don’t rise up from the landscape out of happenstance. They’re made to happen, by the steady hand and upright acts of good people. A great city is the accumulation of such people and their labors. Hale Barrett helped make this a great city.
Every life has value. The best lives add value to those around them. He was such a man.