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Local law firm celebrating 100th year

Oliver, Hulsey & Mahar began firm in 1914 — then known as Kenyon & Gunter

POSTED: February 9, 2014 11:45 p.m.

Edgar Duskin Kenyon practiced his Christian faith, as well as law, as a young group of attorneys observed one day in 1972.

Noticing some growing insecurity among the attorneys making up the firm he founded in 1914, Kenyon called the men together, along with their wives, for a pep talk and prayer time.

Afterward, “Colonel” Kenyon, as he was affectionately called, said, “Boys, go to work. It’s fixed.”

The firm — then known as Kenyon & Gunter — survived that “valley” in its history and today, as Hulsey, Oliver & Mahar, is celebrating its 100th year in Gainesville.

“We’ve got a great group of people here, no soreheads, and we all mix well,” Julius Hulsey, who joined the firm in 1966, said in an interview last week. “We have longevity with staff. 

"Just (recently), we retired our office manager. I hired her 30 years ago.”

The firm at 200 E.E. Butler Parkway recognizes June 1, the day Kenyon earned his license to practice law, as the official anniversary. But plans are underway for a centennial celebration on Oct. 23 at the Northeast Georgia History Center, with a committee formed for that task.

“We’re real excited about it,” said lawyer Abb Hayes, who serves on the committee. “We’re talking about doing some other things, perhaps having a gathering for lawyers in town. We’re just going to do some things to thank the community, which has been so good to us.

“Many of us grew up here, so we’re just thrilled we’ve been able to continue on.”

The firm may not have even taken flight if Kenyon had decided to stay in education. He is considered the “first official” football coach at Gainesville High, where he formed a squad in 1910. However, the team was short-lived as mothers made their sons quit after one of the students broke his arm during practice.

Kenyon was a sole practitioner until 1927, when he formed a partnership with Judge A.C. Wheeler.

When Wheeler left in 1941, Kenyon practiced alone again until 1946, when he was joined in the firm by his son, Dick Kenyon, and Dick’s close friend and classmate at the University of Georgia, William B. “Bill” Gunter.

“They were two of the most decorated World War II veterans you’ll read about,” Hulsey said.

The firm has its share of stirring stories.

According to a written history of the firm, Edgar Kenyon represented the Tallulah Falls Railroad from the 1920s through the 1950s.

One of his early cases involved a young Rabun County girl who lost a finger when she was glanced by a train.

“Col. Ed determined that the railroad had no liability for the injury to this child,” states the document, written by Hulsey. “However, he recommended the railroad settle with her parents anyway. Payment was made, and a release was obtained.”

Then, in the 1970s, a woman came to the law office selling Christmas cards. Edgar Kenyon met her, finding out that she was from Rabun.

“He then noticed she was missing her little finger on one hand,” according to the history. “He asked how she lost her finger, and she stated a train ran over it when she was a baby. ... He gave her a big hug and proceeded to buy all the Christmas cards she had.”

Hulsey said he didn’t know the original site of Kenyon’s practice, but at one point, it was located in the Jackson Building downtown — as were most of the local firms.

Kenyon, Kenyon & Gunter’s move off the square in 1954 to its current location raised eyebrows. “It was just unheard of,” Hulsey said.

The firm went through another change when Dick Kenyon was appointed a Superior Court judge in 1965 by then-Gov. Carl Sanders.

It was known as Kenyon, Hulsey, Oliver, Smith & Mahar when Edgar Kenyon died at 91 in 1981.

The current building was renovated and expanded in 1986, when the firm became Hulsey, Oliver & Mahar.

Through the years, the firm also has seen many lawyers elected to the Gainesville City Board of Education, including Hulsey, Dick Kenyon, Sam Oliver and David Syfan, who recently left the board.

“We’re just strong on education, and that’s what we try to give back to the public,” Hulsey said.

Another lawyer with a political past is Jody Cooley, who served on the school board. Running as a Democrat, he lost in 2012 to Republican Doug Collins in a bid for the 9th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“It’s a great place to work,” he said of his 28 years with the firm. “I think we all have a common purpose of providing competent legal services to the community, and that’s been a joy.”


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