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Attorney, advocate for indigent defense, to receive statewide award

POSTED: April 6, 2014 11:20 p.m.

In 2003, a battle brewed in Georgia’s legislature over the creation of a statewide indigent defense system.

E. Wycliffe Orr Sr., a Gainesville attorney and former state representative, was on the frontlines. For his outspoken support of Constitutional rights, he is being honored with the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Center for Human Rights.

“He’s a very fervent guy. He’s a true believer,” said Hall County Chief Assistant Public Defender Nicki Vaughan. “Very smart, very dedicated, very outspoken about anything that has to do with civil rights.”

Orr was one of the leaders in the push to create a state system of public defense offices, administered by the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council.

Previously, private attorneys handled all cases.

Orr served as a charter member of the council, which has since transformed: Lawmakers in 2009 removed the director of the statewide system from the council’s oversight and had him report to the governor.

“In particular, we honor his heroic efforts to create a public defender system in Georgia, and his continued work to ensure the realization of the constitutional promise of Gideon v. Wainwright,” said Executive Director Sara Totonchi.

In Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Constitution requires states to provide defense attorneys to criminal defendants charged with serious offenses who cannot afford lawyers themselves.

“Wyc’s impact has been felt on a statewide level in a very profound way,” Totonchi said.

Orr will receive the award at the organization’s annual benefit reception, Justice Taking Root, on May 13 at the Jimmy Carter Center in Atlanta.

“Anyone would be humbled, as indeed I am, by such an honor from an organization whose charter, history and successes are as magnificent as those of the Southern Center for Human Rights,” Orr said.

“Too often, ‘equal justice under law’ would be a mere platitude without the sacrificial service of those who fight for justice and human rights.”

The Tifton native and Auburn University graduate was first in his class at the University of Tennessee law school.

He served in then-West Germany as a captain in the United States Army Judge Advocate General Corps from 1971-1974; and as a Representative of the 9th District in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1989-1993.

Orr has been a trial lawyer for more than four decades, boasting a lengthy record of service in the legal and charitable community.

Accomplishments include: President of the Hall County Unit of the American Cancer Society, co-founder and first president of the Chattahoochee American Inn of Court (renamed in 2013 as the E. Wycliffe Orr, Sr. American Inn of Court) and past president of the Gainesville-Northeastern Circuit Bar Association.

He currently serves as Vice Chair of Common Cause Georgia.

Orr and his wife of 47 years, Lyn Harden Orr, have four grandchildren from two children; daughter Kris Brown, a law partner at Orr & Brown LLP, and son E. Wycliffe “Cliff” Orr Jr., an investment manager in Atlanta.


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