Georgia Highlands College celebrated our 40th anniversary with a formal gala on Friday, Nov. 12 at Barnsley Gardens in Kingston. The elegant dinner was followed by a speech delivered by notable attorney Bobby Lee Cook of Summerville, who urged guests not to take American freedoms for granted. He said the founders were exceptionally intelligent people who exercised the art of compromise to craft the brilliant documents we call our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Before the guests arrived, he had quietly presented a check for $100,000 to the GHC Foundation in support of the college.
Cook has maintained his small-town roots while becoming a nationally renowned criminal attorney. In fact, he was the inspiration for the television series Matlock. Many know him as affable and witty – and he is. But in the courtroom, he is cunning and competitive. And he wins.
He was born in Lyerly, attended Gordon Military College and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1946. He earned his law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1949. Early in his career he served in both houses of the Georgia General Assembly. He is a member of the Georgia Bar, and has been admitted to the bars of the U.S. District Court in the Northern, Middle and Southern Districts of Georgia and the Eastern District of Tennessee, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court and multiple circuits of the U.S. Court of Appeals. He also maintains ties and privileges with other bar associations regionally and across the country.
Cook has delivered lectures to legal associations and university classes throughout the United States and in Europe. He has received accolades and awards from a variety of organizations, including The American Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame, the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association (Guardian of Justice Award), the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (Lifetime Achievement Award) and The Georgia Bar’s annual meeting award (Trial Lawyer of the Year). The Georgia Bar bestowed it first Tradition of Excellence award on him in 1984.
As if there were not enough good news and cause for celebration, the evening provided still more. Dr. Randy Pierce, president of the college, announced that the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia had approved a name change for Heritage Hall, the allied health building in downtown Rome that houses the nursing and dental hygiene programs. The building will now be called James D. Maddox Heritage Hall. Maddox, who died in 2009, was the driving force behind the establishment of Floyd Junior College in 1970. (Floyd Junior College was the original name of Georgia Highlands.) He worked tirelessly for several years before that opening date to meet with steering committees, negotiate the acquisition of the 233-acre tract of land on Cedartown Highway, compile all necessary data and documents to the Board of Regents and convince local community leaders and state legislators of the project’s value to the region.
Rebecca Maddox, Jimmy Dick’s daughter and interim director of the GHC nursing program, attended the gala and told the guests how proud and honored her father would be to know that a building at the institution he had worked so hard to develop would bear his name. Making the moment even sweeter was the fact that James D. Maddox Heritage Hall sits on land originally in the Maddox family.
Pierce also announced that a scholarship in Maddox’s name will be established next year.
The college continues to grow from that small cadre of 545 students who first came to classes. Enrollment now numbers more than 5,000 students at six sites in Rome, Cartersville, Marietta, Dallas and Douglasville. Before the decade is over, Georgia Highlands College expects to welcome 10,000 students to our various sites.
Maddox lived to see much of the college’s expansion. He advised the institution when the name changed from Floyd College to Georgia Highlands College in 2005. Although somewhat tumultuous for faculty and staff as well as residents of Rome and Floyd County, all of whom had been with the college for years and felt intense loyalty to Floyd College, Maddox acknowledged the vision of evolving into a regional institution. The college was about to embark upon its first capital campaign, which had to resonate with potential donors throughout the 10-county service area to be successful. So he understood we had to leave behind the old comfort of small, localized Floyd College and spread our wings over a broader area. Since that time, we have opened sites in Marietta, Dallas and Douglasville. We built a new building and opened a viable campus in Cartersville. The decision obviously was a good one.
As we turn our sights to the future of Georgia Highlands College, we can’t ignore or fail to celebrate our distinguished past. If Dr. David McCorkle, the first president of the college, and his administration had not laid a solid foundation of service and hard work, we would not be celebrating six sites and burgeoning enrollment.
So we anticipate our future with excitement and eagerness. But we are filled with pride as we look back to our humble beginnings that have brought us so far. Here’s to the 40th anniversary of Georgia Highlands College. And the threshold of another half century of successful teaching and learning.