Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia School of Law’s alumni association recently presented its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Scroll Award, to Eleanor F. Banister of Atlanta, Ga., and the Honorable B. Avant Edenfield of Savannah, Ga. Given annually, the award goes to individuals whose dedication and service to the legal profession and the law school deserves special recognition. The awards were presented during the Law School Association’s annual breakfast held in conjunction with the State Bar of Georgia’s Annual Meeting on June 7.
Banister’s award was presented to her by Samuel M. Matchett, a fellow Georgia Law graduate and partner at King & Spalding. “From an associate at the firm to partner, Eleanor has been [an] exemplar. She has risen from the ranks through sheer brainpower, hard work and likeability. … She is a natural role model and many new lawyers, male and female, hold her up as the partner they want to emulate.”
Upon receiving the award, Banister said she was “floored” to be included as a member of such a distinguished group. “It is truly an honor that I do not think I deserve. … The law school is the foundation of every professional accomplishment I have and so much of my personal life is wrapped up in the law school,” she said. She also expressed her appreciation to law school Dean Rebecca H. White, who she believes has “done a fantastic job of making our degrees look better and better every year.”
Banister graduated summa cum laude from UGA in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in education. She taught in her native Madison County for four years before enrolling at Georgia Law. She earned her Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, in 1980 and was inducted into the Order of the Coif.
Upon graduation, Banister clerked for Judge G. Ernest Tidwell of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia from 1980 to 1983 and joined King & Spalding as an associate in 1983.
She is currently a partner in King & Spalding’s employee benefits and executive compensation practice where she advises clients on all aspects of the design, implementation and administration of employee benefit plans, executive compensation plans and related funding vehicles.
In addition, Banister has served on the Law School Association Council since 1998 and was president for the 2006-07 year. She also has been included in Atlanta magazine’s “Georgia Super Lawyers” since 2004 and its “Top 50 Female Georgia Super Lawyers” for 2004, 2005 and 2008. Additionally, she has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America since 2003.
Georgia Law alumna Susan W. Cox, a partner in the firm Edenfield, Cox, Bruce & Classens, presented Edenfield with his award. “Judge Edenfield’s service to the profession, to the rule of law and to the judiciary are hallmarks of his career. … It was a lucky day for the legal profession and the University of Georgia when Judge Edenfield decided to [leave his family farm and study the law].”The first in his family to attend college, Edenfield, after receiving the Distinguished Service Scroll Award, expressed his gratitude for the law school saying, “Athens and the University of Georgia became to me that shining city on the hill, and the law school is the crown. … I am grateful to the law school and to the law school alumni association for its efforts and its resources that have helped to sustain the school and maintain its excellence.”
Edenfield earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1956 and his law degree in 1958, both from UGA. Then, he was active in the U.S. Army and the Georgia National Guard from 1957 to 1963. Edenfield also served in the Georgia State Senate, where he was secretary of the Senate Committee on Higher Education.
He was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia in 1978, where he was chief judge for seven years and assumed senior status in 2006. He also has sat by designation on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and has managed dockets in other southeastern district courts.
Edenfield’s other duties while serving as a judge included working on the judicial branch committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States and serving on the Pattern Jury Charge Committee for the 5th and 11th Circuits for approximately 25 years. He is currently president of the District Judges Association for the 11th Circuit.
Despite his busy schedule, Edenfield has found time to participate as a writer, lecturer and panelist before many law groups and associations as well as teach at the National College for Advocacy for Assistant U.S. attorneys.