June 2000: Vol. 79, No. 3

Dog days in D.C.

Law grad Beth Thompson Kertscher and professor Walter Hellerstein argue U.S. Supreme Court cases on consecutive days

by Kathy Pharr (ABJ '87)

Aeth Thompson Kertscher (JD '95) was practicing law in Atlanta when Judge J.L. Edmondson (JD '71) of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals assigned her to represent a Georgia inmate who was serving a life sentence for two murders. Robert Jones' parole complaint had failed in federal district court, but his appeal had piqued the interest of the 11th Circuit.

Hellerstein (right) won his case, running his Supreme Court record to 2-0. Kertscher (left) lost hers, but found the experience invaluable.
Jones had argued that the state of Georgia violated his constitutional rights by changing the terms of his parole after sentence was imposed. Kertscher convinced the 11th Circuit to overturn the district court's summary judgment, but the state appealed and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case—one of only 87 chosen from more than 5,000 petitions.

Kertscher worked long hours to refine the written statement of her argument, and she got help from her old college mentor, UGA law professor Dan Coenen, who is an expert in constitutional law and a former judicial clerk to the late Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. Kertscher says Coenen made a huge difference in the quality of her legal brief: "He suggested everything from how to connect the ex post facto clause to cruel and unusual punishment cases to little turns of phrases that ended up being a real nice touch in the brief."

In December, Kertscher endured a grueling four-hour practice session in UGA's Hatton Lovejoy Courtroom where she had honed her talents as a moot court student. The justices for this legal dress rehearsal were UGA law professors Anne Dupre (JD '88), who also clerked for Justice Blackmun, and Randy Beck, who clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy. Coenen served as chief justice.

On Jan. 11, at precisely 10 a.m., the marshal banged the gavel to announce the entrance of the Supreme Court justices. When her case was called, the 28-year-old Kertscher strode to the front respondent's table, flanked by co-counsel LeeAnn Jones (JD '86) and Bill Custer (JD '86). Kertscher was pleased with how the argument went. But when the ruling was handed down on March 28, it wasn't what she wanted to hear: a 6-3 decision against her client.

"The experience was wonderful, although I'm very disappointed in the outcome," she says. "If I had the opportunity to do this again, I'd take it in a heartbeat."

On Jan. 12, the day after Kertscher's Supreme Court case, UGA law professor Walter Hellerstein, one of the nation's foremost experts on state and local taxation, went before the Supreme Court to argue Hunt Wesson, Inc. v. Franchise Tax Board of California, a complex case concerning taxation of interest allocations.

"The Supreme Court—they're a bunch of extremely talented, smart and engaged justices," says Hellerstein. "On the other hand, the justices hear cases that are so different that they can never know as much about my case as I know about it. So they're really looking to me for answers to questions that trouble them."

In February, Hellerstein learned he had won his case, improving his Supreme Court record to 2-0. He plans to share his experiences with his tax law students.

"It helps students to understand cases," he says, "because I can indicate to them that what they see in the appellate opinion is not everything that has gone on in the months, indeed years, before it actually becomes an appellate opinion. So I think it's very important for professors to do things outside the Ivory Tower."

Kathy Pharr (ABJ '87) is communications director of UGA's School of Law.

Renaissance man

Medicine and pro football are at the top of Tommy Lyons' résumé, but there's much more. Is there anything the man can't do?

by Stacie Sutton (ABJ '99, BS '00)

Lyons (AB '71, MS '71) is a lot of things all wrapped up in one person: doctor, athlete, piano player, conductor, pilot.
When Tommy Lyons was five years old, he told a TV reporter that he wanted to be a horse trainer. Like most kids, he changed his mind. He was fascinated with doctors, pilots, and musicians. Football players also loomed big in his mind.

What's amazing is that in the course of one lifetime, Lyons, who's only 51 years old, has realized most of his childhood ambitions. He's a doctor and a pilot. He's a talented enough musician to have served as a guest conductor with symphony orchestras. And though he never became a horse trainer, he did play pro football for the Denver Broncos, so it must have been fate.

"I was like everyone growing up—full of dreams and hopes," says Lyons (AB '71, MS '71). "But I've gotten to do so many things I dreamed of doing. I was lucky."

Of all his ambitions, Lyons says football made everything else possible. At UGA, he started for three years as a center and was a two-time All-American. Even with an outstanding college career, he didn't see football in the big picture. When his college playing days were over, Lyons planned to pursue a career in clinical psychology. But when the Denver Broncos picked him in the 14th round of the 1971 NFL draft, the opportunity was too tempting to pass up.

Lyons started 49 consecutive games for the Broncos. Off the field, he sought greater challenges: "While I was playing football in Denver, a little voice said, 'Maybe you want to do a little more. Maybe you want to be a doctor.' "

Good idea, he thought—but wait, I shudder at the sight of blood. To test his resolve, Lyons watched several surgeries and decided that, in the interest of healing people, it was something he could get used to. In 1977, he graduated from the University of Colorado Medical School. For most people, medical school and pro football are feats unto themselves, but Lyons says combining the two seemed like the most natural thing to do. "Football had gone hand in hand with academics since high school," he says. "I didn't know anything else."

While he was playing football for the Broncos, the director of the Denver Symphony Orchestra learned that Lyons was an avid piano player and asked him to be a guest conductor. "It was at once nerve-wracking and fantastic," Lyons recalls. "Take the most amazing sound system and multiply it times 10. That's what it's like to stand there. I swore I'd never do it again, but it's addicting." Lyons later served as guest conductor for the Greeley (Colo.) Philharmonic.

Lyons inherited his love of flying from his father, who was a pilot in World War II, and he is an avid pilot. Finding time to get in the air is another matter entirely. He and his wife Cheryl (BSHE '86) have two children, and his medical practice is a demanding one.

As director of the Center for Women's Care and Reproductive Surgery in Atlanta, Lyons divides his time between the office and the operating room. He uses a unique procedure that enables women to have hysterectomies on an outpatient basis. Most go home the same day. Typically, they return to work within two weeks. "The procedure is called laproscopy," says Lyons, "which basically means big operations through small holes tinier in diameter than a ball point pen."

Lyons has traveled all over the world, teaching his surgical techniques to doctors in Japan, Korea, Russia, and New Zealand. "There's something to learn everywhere you go," he says. "Even if you're a teacher, you still learn something."

She stood up for what was right

Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes broke the color barrier at UGA, but Atlanta music educator Mary Frances Early was the University's first black graduate

by Matt Winston

Early now heads Clark Atlanta University's music department, which is located in an old church.
In January 1961, while in graduate school at the University of Michigan, Atlanta native Mary Frances Early saw a photo of Charlayne Hunter carrying a figurine of the Madonna while armed guards escorted her off the UGA campus. Hunter and classmate Hamilton Holmes had been suspended, presumably for their own safety, as social and political unrest swirled about the campus over these two young people who were the first African-American students to attend UGA.

Early was so moved by the photo that she decided to return to her home state and enroll in graduate school at UGA. A little more than a year later, she earned a master's degree in music education, becoming UGA's first African-American graduate.

"I felt that the responsibility to do the right thing should not fall just on the shoulders of those two brave students," says Early (MMEd '62), who was honored in April by UGA's Graduate and Professional Scholars. "Fighting these types of injustices should be everyone's responsibility. I just wanted to do my part."

Early says the interview session for admission to UGA's graduate school was obviously meant to discourage her: "I was asked all sorts of inappropriate questions—they even asked me if I had ever been a prostitute." But she was admitted, and when Charlayne Hunter returned to school Early became her roommate. Their biggest obstacle, as well as Holmes', may have been loneliness.

"The students were tolerant," she says. "Most ignored me and went about their business. It was difficult for them to be seen with me. More often than not, I ate meals alone."

Not everyone was tolerant. Early recalls the day when football players formed a human chain in front of the library steps to prevent her from entering. "All I wanted to do was go inside and study," she recalls, "so I put my head down and charged toward them like the Bulldog I was supposed to be. They moved out of my way."

Early sang in the UGA chorus, meaning she also integrated extracurricular activities. On May 16, 1962, she made UGA history when she received her degree at spring commencement. By then, there were nearly a dozen African-American students on campus. A year later, Holmes and Hunter earned their degrees.

Early is currently chair of the music department at Clark Atlanta University. She was a music teacher and administrator in the Atlanta public schools for 37 years, and she is a past president of the Georgia Music Educators Association.

The students, faculty, and staff who gathered to welcome Early back to campus in April got to see some important pieces of civil rights history: Early's acceptance letter to graduate school, the tassel she wore at commencement, and a letter of congratulations written to her by Martin Luther King Jr.

"When I think about the numbers of minorities on campus then and compare them to now, I'm not encouraged," says Early. "The struggle began 39 years ago—and it is far from over."

Mary Frances Early appears in "Foot Soldiers for Equal Justice, Part II," a documentary about Horace Ward, the first black to sue for admission to UGA, which will air this fall. Matt Winston is news bureau manager for the UGA News Service.

End of an era

Milton "Red" Leathers and Frank Lumpkin Jr., the last two remaining members of the '29 team that upset Yale, died a few weeks apart

by Dan Magill (ABJ '42)

Last Oct. 26, before the Homecoming game versus Kentucky, the University honored the last living members of the revered '29 team that upset mighty Yale in the dedication of Sanford Stadium: Milton "Red" Leathers of Athens and Frank Lumpkin Jr. of Columbus.

Both in declining health and well past 90, they made their way to the 50-yard line via wheelchair and golf cart—and were given a standing ovation by 85,000 fans. Leathers (BSC '33) was an All-Southern Conference guard in 1930-31. Lumpkin (M '31) was a four-year "scrub team" lineman, but he went on to become one of his alma mater's most generous athletic boosters.

Leathers (right) helped the Dogs defeat Yale twice, and Lumpkin became a generous athletic benefactor.
Sadly, Red passed away on March 3, and Frank died on March 22. They may be gone, but they'll never be forgotten. Their exploits would have made a wonderful chapter in Tom Brokaw's book, The Greatest Generation.

Red Leathers was Athens High's only four-letter athlete: all-state on the undefeated state championship football team in '27 (he called signals even though he played tackle); all-state in basketball on teams that twice lost to Vienna's "Wonder Five" by a basket; all-state first baseman in baseball; and a shot putter in track.

At Georgia, Red starred in the Bulldogs' 15-0 victory over Yale in '29, and two years later was a hero in the Dogs' 26-7 win over Yale before 75,000 in the Yale Bowl, intercepting a pass and racing 50 yards to the goal line. In 1933, as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, Red became UGA's first NFL player.

Stationed at the Pentagon during World War II, he developed an ordinance distribution plan that the British government said, "shortened the war by months." Back home, he built his family's business into an internationally known firm that traded to 18 countries.

Frank Lumpkin Jr. was born in Columbus, and his family has played an important role in both UGA and Georgia history. The UGA law school was founded by his great-grandfather, Joseph Henry Lumpkin, first chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, and Joseph's brother Wilson was governor of Georgia.

Frank made a name for himself as a business and civic leader in Columbus. His principal profession was insurance, and he was known for his outspoken style—which friends believe may have been a result of his admiration for Gen. George Patton, who was a close friend of Frank's father. Patton, accompanied by generals Omar Bradley and George Marshall, liked to sip whiskey at the Lumpkin household while they were stationed at Fort Benning. Frank later served under Patton in Europe as a lieutenant colonel in the 709th Tank Battalion.

One of Frank's many financial contributions to UGA athletics will improve the football pressbox. He also funded a much-needed building adjacent to the dressing rooms in Sanford Stadium that will be used for TV, radio, and post-game press interviews. It will be named the Frank Lumpkin Media Center.

This profile was adapted with permission from recent columns that Dan Magill (ABJ '42) wrote for the Athens Daily News/Banner-Herald. Magill was UGA's men's tennis coach from 1954-88. He also served as sports information director and founded the Bulldog Club.

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