Do Good Anyway- A Lesson from Professor Willie J. Lovett, Jr.
March 22, 1965 – January 30, 2017
By: Judge Renata D. Turner
Judge. Professor. Mentor. Leader. Friend. These are just a few of the titles proudly worn by our beloved Professor Willie Jake Lovett, Jr. I am most honored to have called him a friend first. We worked together during our nascent years as lawyers at the City of Atlanta’s Law Department. Since that time our professional and personal paths crossed and merged eventually at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and finally at the Fulton County Juvenile Court. I can still picture his smile and bow tie as he stood in my law school office doorway. He dropped by after an event and asked what he needed to do to become an adjunct. Once he began teaching, he fell in love with it. What he loved most was mentoring students- helping them to get their footing as young lawyers and opening as many doors for them as he could. We often spoke of the talent and dedication of AJMLS students and his desire to give back, recognizing the blessings that were given to him throughout his life.
Judge Lovett was raised by his grandmother in Savannah, Georgia. He graduated from Beach High School with the highest GPA of all the high school students in Chatham County. He graduated cum laude with Distinction from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and earned his Juris Doctor from Harvard School of Law. He later earned his Master of Laws in Litigation from Emory Law School. He clerked for the Honorable Joseph W. Hatchett, former chief Judge of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, served as an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Atlanta’s Law Department, and worked as an associate at Moors, Manning & Martin, LLP, Ford & Harrison, LLP, and Troutman Sanders, LLP. For ten years, he served as the Deputy County Attorney for the Fulton of County Office of the County Attorney. He then served as the Director of the Fulton County Office of Child Attorney from 2009 to 2013. He was appointed as a Presiding Judge of the Fulton County Juvenile Court in the Atlanta Judicial Circuit in May 2013. He was affectionately known to the children in his court as the “bow tie Judge.” On the bench, Judge Lovett was known for his compassion and care for the children and families appearing before him. Off the bench, he was lauded for his dedication to improving juvenile justice. As examples, he was the lead judge for the Dually Involved Youth Initiative and served as a member for the Board of Directors for the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC).
The list of Judge Lovett’s accomplishments, honors, professional positons, and positons of service is long but now finite. The impact that he left behind to the legal community and those of us who knew and loved him, however, is infinite. Many of us question why his life ended so abruptly when he still had so much to give to a world desperate for his type of leadership. I like to believe that too much compassion and dedication to improving the world was concentrated in the man called Willie Lovett. Now it’s dispersed to those of us also striving to serve and improve the world around us. When doing such noble and often thankless work seems too hard, Judge Professor Mentor Leader Friend Willie Jake Lovett, Jr. gave us the inspiration to keep moving forward through the words of his favorite poem that he often tearfully recited:
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do well anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
Rest in peace with your God my friend.
Judge Renata D. Turner