ATHENS, Ga. – The University of Georgia School of Law’s alumni association has presented its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Scroll Award, to UGA professor Julian B. McDonnell of Athens and attorney John H. Mobley II of Atlanta. The award is given each year to one or two deserving individuals whose services to the legal profession and UGA’s law school are worthy of special recognition. The awards were presented during the Law School Association’s annual breakfast held in conjunction with the State Bar of Georgia meeting at Amelia Island, Fla., on Saturday, June 14.
McDonnell was born in Alabama, graduated from Spring Hill College in Mobile and earned his law degree from the University of Virginia. He served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1968, which included a noncombat assignment with a corp-level staff in Vietnam. He began his teaching career at the University of Alabama School of Law and later practiced with the Atlanta law firm Hansell, Post, Brandon & Dorsey.
McDonnell joined the UGA law faculty in 1972 and has continuously taught contracts and commercial law at the university with the exception of visits to the University of Texas, University of Puerto Rico and Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires. In 1986, he was named the John A. Sibley Professor of Corporate and Business Law.
McDonnell has authored or coauthored five books: Uniform Commercial Code: Analysis of Revised Article 9; Secured Transactions Under the Uniform Commercial Code, a five-volume treatise that is revised tri-annually; Commercial and Consumer Warranties, a three-volume treatise that is revised annually; Common Law & Equity Under the Uniform Commercial Code; and Commercial Transactions: Payment Systems, Sales, Secured Finance, a three-volume set. In addition, McDonnell was the principal drafter of the Georgia Financial Institutions Code, enacted in 1974 as the code for Georgia state banks, and the Georgia Article Nine Revision, enacted in 1978.
Well respected by his students at the law school, McDonnell has been selected by members of the graduating class to receive the Faculty Book Award for Teaching Excellence on five occasions and has been presented the Professional Responsibility Award. He retired from the School of Law on June 1.
McDonnell and his wife, Paula, have been married for 34 years and have two sons.
In presenting the award to McDonnell, former classmate, roommate and fellow law professor C. Ronald Ellington said it is not easy to capture McDonnell’s contribution to the law school. “He will be greatly missed by his colleagues and the students. In one of his teacher reviews, one first-year student wrote, ‘After the first day of class, I left feeling this is why I came to law school.’” In addition, Ellington said over the years, McDonnell has been one of the “keepers of the law school’s collective conscience. He will be greatly missed.”
Upon receiving the award, McDonnell said it was a high honor to receive the Distinguished Service Scroll Award from the school’s alumni and to have been the first person to occupy the Sibley Professorship at the law school. He added that he benefitted greatly from the institution’s international programs during his tenure. McDonnell also acknowledged his wife who gave up her “big city career plans” to allow him to pursue his teaching career.
During the ceremony, a newly endowed award was announced in honor of McDonnell. Funded by former students and colleagues, the Julian B. McDonnell Prize will be awarded annually to an outstanding student in the field of commercial law.
The second recipient of the Scroll Award was John H. Mobley II, a native of Shreveport, La. A 1953 graduate of the UGA law school, Mobley also earned his undergraduate degree from UGA. While at the university, he was an active student with membership in Kappa Alpha Order social fraternity, Blue Key, Gridiron, Phi Kappa Literary Society and Phi Delta Phi international legal fraternity. He was also a member of the Georgia Bar Journal’s student editorial board.
Mobley was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 1952. He served in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Department from 1953 to 1955 and attained the rank of captain. In 1956, Mobley formed the law firm of Kelley & Mobley with Sumter M. Kelley. After the death of Kelley in 1963, he created the firm Gambrell & Mobley with David H. Gambrell. He continued this partnership until 1983 when he joined Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan where he is currently a senior partner.
Mobley is a distinguished member of the American Bar Association, the District of Columbia Bar, the Lawyers Club of Atlanta and the State Bar of Georgia. The National Association of Bond Attorneys selected him as one of the leading bond attorneys in the United States. He also served on the executive committee of the southern district of the Securities Industry Association, the only noninvestment banker to ever hold such a position.
In addition, he is an active member of his community as a dedicated participant in church affairs and charitable organizations. For 20 years, he has served as chairman of the Board of Communities in School Schools and currently serves on the executive committee of Board of National Communities in Schools, an organization dedicated to reducing the drop-out rate from schools in the United States.
Mobley has been married to his Sue Lawton Mobley for 45 years. They have a daughter, two granddaughters and a son who predeceased them.
In presenting the Scroll Award to Mobley, Law School Association council member and award committee chair Robert W. Chasteen Jr. said Mobley is the “dean of the public finance community” and has always acted as a mentor to fellow lawyers in the area of local government law. “I have always admired John as he does not comprise what is right just to make a fee,” he added.
In accepting the association’s highest honor, Mobley said the practice of law had changed a lot over the years, noting legal advertising and the term “billable hours” did not exist when he first entered the legal profession. In addition, he said education is key to one’s success and that he would never forget the honor given to him by the Law School Association.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Electronic photos are available by calling Heidi Murphy at (706) 542-5172.