It was only fitting that the last six months of Leonard Tuggle Jr.'s life were spent working in Augusta's public defender's office.
Friends said the Chicago native was a compassionate man who tried to reach out to others whenever he could.
"He always had an interest in community service, and one of the things we do at the public defender's office is help those who are less fortunate," said Sam Sibley, an attorney with the public defender's office and a friend of Mr. Tuggle for more than two decades. "So he gave up the advantages of private practice and opted to work in this office."
Mr. Tuggle died Saturday after a two-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Mr. Sibley, who met Mr. Tuggle while attending Academy of Richmond County in the 1960s, described his fellow lawyer as friendly and easygoing in his personal life and highly skilled in his professional life.
"He always seemed to be considerate of others," Mr. Sibley said.
After high school, the men parted ways for years, seeing each other only in passing until last summer, when Mr. Tuggle approached Mr. Sibley about joining the public defender's office.
Although Mr. Tuggle had only been there for a matter of months, his "excellent work" was noticed, according to his friend.
Judge Duncan Wheale, who met Mr. Tuggle 25 years ago and worked closely with him over the past six months, too, said the longtime attorney was special in and out of the courtroom.
"We see a lot of lawyers, but very few people have the passion that Leonard had to really fight for his clients," he said, noting that Mr. Tuggle's last case was tried and won in front of him.
While struggling with cancer, Judge Wheale said, Mr. Tuggle was brave and never sought pity.
"The last time I saw him, the day before he died, he was teasing a lady in the room," he said. "He did not want the focus to be on him."
Besides Mr. Tuggle's contributions in the legal field, the longtime Augustan was active in a wide array of community groups, including the Boy Scouts, which is how most people knew him, Mr. Sibley said.
Mr. Tuggle also was a member of the South Carolina National Guard Association, the Georgia Republican Party and the West Lake Property Owners Association and served as past president of the crime-prevention group Safe Homes Inc.
"I simply don't know anyone who didn't like him," said childhood friend Preston Sizemore, the past president of Sizemore Security.
Mr. Sizemore remembered picking Mr. Tuggle and his sister up at his house to go to the then-Greene Street Presbyterian Church, where Mr. Tuggle's uncle was a minister.
Over the years, the two men kept in touch. When Mr. Tuggle married his sweetheart Prudence, his former neighbor was right there, helping to plan the nuptials.
"I just think he was always the same, always friendly, always a good guy who cared about people," Mr. Sizemore said.
In December, he recalls, Mr. Tuggle told him from his hospital bed that he had begun work as a public defender.
"I thought, 'That suits him well,'" Mr. Sizemore said.
Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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