Please indulge me for a moment.  Forty years and three days ago, my father and I held a gold-gilded 1851  Maccabean Bible, which belonged to my great, great grandmother, Margaret Stripling Ward.  With my father at my side, as he always was, and my mother behind him, as she always was, I raised my right hand and  took my second oath.  My first oath was affirmed when I enlisted in the United States Army Reserve, seven years earlier.  

In both oaths, I swore allegiance to my country, my state, and my community.  When I stood before Judge William M. Towson, I swore that I would truly and honestly, justly and uprightly conduct myself as a member of this learned profession and as an attorney and counselor.  That oath was one that I never took lightly and never will.

As I celebrate and treasure forty years of practicing law in Dublin, Georgia, I thank all of my clients and associates who have put their trust in me.  I am grateful for all of the life lessons which I have learned from them.   I think about  my father, a fun-loving, rascally country boy from the banks of  the ‘Hoopee River -  east of Adrian, Georgia.  He had two main goals for his life  after graduating from Adrian High School.  The first was to fly an airplane, which he did as a Navy pilot in World War II.  In the Hoopee,  he learned to swim underwater for long periods of time, a skill which aided him during his training as a underwater demolition technician (a Seal today.)   He learned to shoot a rifle, a skill which allowed him to strike enemy planes headed directly for his ship.  The second was to move to Dublin to practice law and help people. Well, I have never flown a plane, but I will hop aboard a one-way moon rocket as quickly as I can.  

Daddy's prime directive to me was to treat all people fairly and with respect and courtesy.  As I look back and learn from others his acts of kindness and respect toward people, especially those people who he saw as being less fortunate than himself,  I see the man who I was rapidly becoming.   He rarely sent a second bill but frequently told his poorer, sick,  or grieving clients to keep their money as they might need it sometime, 

I see him as the model for Atticus Finch, Harper Lee’s fictional lawyer in the small county of Maycomb, Alabama in her iconic novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  Like Finch, he represented a black man charged with a brutal felony in the racially charged summer of 1956 in the rural South.  I was only three months old.  I don’t remember it.  When his client, Lem Dupree, became the last Laurens County man to sit in the state electric chair, he could never forget it.  “Dale did all he could,” said future DA Wash Larsen, “but he was appointed to the case and had only a few days to prepare a defense.”    

Daddy’s second directive was that he and I were put here to help people and not be concerned about getting rich.  It did not take long for me to learn that if I walked in his footsteps and followed his orders, I would become, not the richest, but the wealthiest person in Laurens County.

Whatever success I have achieved, I owe to my parents and my grandmother Thompson's Braswell male ancestors who always wanted to be lawyers. Like most of our ancestors, they were dirt farmers, who could not get the education they needed or make enough money on their farms to pay the local judge to give their sons the answers to the oral bar exam in advance.   His  grandfather, Asa Braswell, who dropped out of school at age of ten, wrote like a fluent Harvard-educate, Philadelphia lawyer in many of his letters to various Presidents of the United States.   

    Believe it or not, law school for me was the easiest school since I was an ten-year-old scientist and had a crush on my fifth grade teacher, Kay Willoughby. She led me to love science.   I will always remember proving to her that what she told the class about wind directions was wrong.  Remember, Daddy had to learn a lot of meteorology to fly a plane.  He also predicted the 14-inch snowfall of 1973.   

I could not have achieved anything without the wise counsel of our judges, my fellow senior attorneys , and the ladies in the courthouse, who held my hand in the early years.  I can’t finish without thanking God for saving my life from the brink of death at least four times in the last fifteen years.  I have been that (.) close.    

    I have been richly blessed the support of my staff and my fellow law partners, Eric Jones, Lance Jones, Sam Hilbun, Craig Fraser, and Mitch Warnock.  And last, but not least, my teachers who taught me how to think and to reason, the main skill any attorney needs. 

This  is why I am still here doing my best walking in Daddy’shoes.  I used to steal his dress shoes because we wore the same size.    Daddy practiced law for 19,301 days including his very last day on the Earth.  That includes Saturdays, Sundays, and vacations.  He had few vacations and never took his lawyer/servant hat off.   He taught the Gospel in the First Methodist Sunday School for four decades.  That skill and devotion was passed to my brother Henry. 

My goal is not to break my father's record, but to tie it.  So my official retirement date is set for September 4, 2036.  Then, I go to Plan B in my eighties.  That goal, God willing,  is to be a teacher of some sort. After all, Daddy did go to Georgia Teacher’s College in Statesboro before he flunked out because he had too much fun playing football and doing other things.  He entered the Navy after Pearl Harbor and his world changed.    

My mother, Jane Scott,  is my only ancestor to graduate from a four-year-university (UGA.)  In her earlier years, this auburn-haired, green-eyed beauty was one of the best on the dance floors in town.  Momma had beautiful penmanship, which she passed on to all of us.  Daddy told stories.  Sadly, he didn't write them down.  If he did, you couldn't read them anyway.  My mother read to me and taught me math when I was very young.  She gave me lots of change out of the bottom of her pocket book to buy science books at the Moore Street School book fairs.  

She put me in front of our television, not just to watch cartoons and get  me out of her way.  Oddly enough, other than cowboy shows, my passion were the western soundtracks, weather forecasts,  and watching the CBS news.  Honestly, when I was only four in the year 1960, I idolized Walter Cronkite, Eric Severeid, and Charles Kuralt and their colleagues.   I was enthralled by their voices and their new words.   I knew all of their names.  That same year, I wanted to name my baby brother Henry, "Charles Collingwood Thompson."

My mother shared my passion for her heritage, which I was lucky enough to discover and share with her. She added the love of nature, family, and music to my life.   

     I was destined to write about the fascinating and inspirational stories of those who have come before us.  All of my English teachers would bet big money with great odds that I would never write (Thanks Dubose Porter) for a newspaper or a magazine (Thanks Cheryl Cannon) much less motions, briefs, and appeals to the Supreme Court of Georgia, one of which I reversed the trial judge 9 to 0 without an opinion, a rare feat, especially for a young lawyer.    I don't have the heart to tell any of my living teachers, that my writing style and passion comes not from classic authors, but from listening to the news, documentaries, my father's witty, folksy stories, and my mother's warm and loving language.         

    As I close, I will remind you that all of us, everyone one of us, was put here on the Earth to help people.   I am not the richest man in Laurens County.  I, with of all the humility I can muster,  am that wealthiest man!  

Thank you all.  


My Daddy, Harlow Manning, thought the world of Dale Thompson and turned to him when he needed legal help. He often gave him a hog when he killed hogs himself.