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Gainesville lawyer, philanthropist Phillip Sartain remembered for devotion to his work, community
Phillip Sartain
Phillip Sartain

Remembering her friend’s quick dry wit and caring nature, Hall County Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver said the death of Phillip Sartain is the loss of a “true master craftsman.”

Sartain, a Gainesville lawyer and philanthropist, died Monday, Dec. 28, at the age of 62. According to his obituary, Phillip was diagnosed with early onset dementia in early 2016.

His wife, Lydia Sartain, and their three daughters spent the day before Thanksgiving with him. His daughters told him how much they loved him, and he put his hand up against his heart “for them to know that he loved them,” Lydia Sartain said.

“It was a sweet time that they communicated their love for each other,” she said.

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Sartain worked with his father, Joe Sartain Jr., and brothers, Perry and Larry Sartain, for 30 years until his retirement in 2016 from the Sartain Law Offices.

“We lost a true master craftsman who built and strengthened his church, his family, his friends, his clients and his community with firm support, unwavering sincere devotion and unsurpassed skill,” Oliver said.

“Phillip led a rich, fulfilling and exciting life. He held a deep respect and appreciation for nature and loved hiking in the North Georgia mountains with his dog, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, his wife, and three daughters,” according to his obituary. “An explorer at heart, Phillip once drove the family RV to all 48 contiguous states with his wife and three daughters; remarkably, they all lived to tell the story.”

Oliver said she first met Sartain in the mid-1980s as young lawyers in town, who would hang out on Fridays, have a beer and talk about their cases. 

Sartain worked primarily on cases concerning Social Security disability and workers’ compensation.

“He was dealing with people that were injured or ailing in some way, and he dealt with them with such compassion and sincerity and really gave himself to their cause,” Oliver said.

Lydia Sartain said she received a call a couple of weeks ago from a man Phillip had represented. The man’s voice started to break as he told Lydia of her husband’s kindness while helping him to obtain his Social Security benefits.

Oliver was the one to set up Lydia and Phillip some 30 years ago, asking Lydia to join in on their usual Friday after-work drink.

“I dropped my pen, and it rolled over to him,” Lydia Sartain said. “He picked it up. The rest is history.”

Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said he was “sad to hear of the passing of a fellow attorney” and he wished the family comfort as they grieve.

Sartain previously served as the president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lanier and is the namesake for the annual “Phillip Sartain Helping Hands” award given to people who “through service, dedication and commitment improved children’s lives” at the clubs, according to the clubs.

Phillip and Lydia Sartain gave $50,000 in 2018 as an endowment to Brenau University “to explore and establish academic programs for addressing social justice issues and practices,” according to the school.

Having served on the board at the Boys and Girls Clubs with Sartain, Oliver said Sartain’s stance on philanthropy was to make sure that young people “had the right start and had the tools at their disposal that would give them an opportunity for success.”