John Marshall Melvin, a retired Gainesville attorney and named partner with Stewart, Melvin & Frost, built a legacy in law practice, the theater and the Hall County community.
Melvin died Sunday, June 9, after a lengthy illness. He was 79.
A celebration of his life will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville. A reception at the church will follow.
“Mr. Melvin — he was great,” said Andy Stewart, a member of the Gainesville City Schools Board of Education whose father worked alongside Melvin for decades. “We considered the Melvins to be very good family friends.”
It’s been a difficult month for the Stewart, Melvin and Frost law firm, with Melvin being the third of three longtime partners to die in that time span.
Stewart’s father, Jon Douglas Stewart, a senior litigator and partner, died May 10, after an extended illness. He was 80.
And Frank Willett Armstrong, 78, of Gainesville died Thursday, May 16.
“Each of them had leadership roles in the community,” Stewart said. “They each had their own selected cause of choice.”
Stewart said his father and Melvin joined the law practice within months of each other, and
Stewart grew up with Melvin’s son, attending school and playing sports together.
“The houses we were born in were on the same street,” Stewart said.
“They were good friends,” he added of his father and Melvin. “They had a lot in common.”
That included a love for the theater and singing in church choirs.
Melvin retired from the practice in 2009 after a distinguished career in real estate law that spanned 40 years.
According to his obituary, “His legal profession, however, was only one facet of a diversely talented man who in many ways was larger than life, due in part to his robust acting and singing in local theater productions, such as his role of Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks in the musical ‘Annie.’ No matter the stage — whether the theater, Rotary Club, or church – Melvin always stood out in character, leadership and a 6-foot 5-inch frame.”
Indeed, Melvin was a man who believed in contributing to civic life, said former colleague Scotty Ball, a partner at the law firm.
“I came on board back in 1997,” Ball said. “I was a little nervous about being a younger fellow and how that was going to shake out.”
But, Ball added, Melvin “welcomed me in” and became like a mentor.
“I owe a lot of where I am today to John Melvin,” Ball said.
Ball described Melvin as the “truest of Southern gentlemen,” a genteel man who acted from the heart and epitomized “old-time Gainesville.”
Whether practicing law, or as a member of the local Rotary Club or in the halls of his church with the family he raised, Melvin “did it all,” Ball said.
Melvin grew up in Jefferson where he attended Jefferson High School and was a member of the school band.
A trumpet player, he eventually marched with the University of Georgia's famed Dixie Redcoat Band. Melvin received a finance degree at UGA in 1962 and, three years later, graduated from the UGA School of Law.
He later served in the Air Force as a captain.
An Eagle Scout in 1955 and a member of the 1978 class of Leadership Georgia, Melvin lived a lifetime of leadership.
He was known statewide for his support of the Georgia Rotary Student program and as a dedicated member of the Gainesville Rotary Club. During his service as president in 1988-89, the Gainesville civic organization was recognized as Club of the Year for Rotary District 6910. He later was honored as Gainesville Rotary's Man of the Year in 1999.
Melvin was a deacon and elder at First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville.
“Personally, John was incredibly gracious, encouraging, and welcoming to me seemingly from the minute I set foot in Gainesville,” said the Rev. Lee Koontz, senior pastor at First Presbyterian who began at the church in January 2016. “I know many people experienced that from him — people from all walks of life. He was a natural mentor whose generous spirit and caring leadership blessed and shaped the lives of many. He was larger than life, a big man with a big heart, and his influence will continue to shape our community even after his passing.”
Melvin served the church in several capacities, as an elder, deacon, Sunday school teacher and as a member of the choir, over the course of 48 years.
He taught us and showed us what servant leadership looks like, and his kind and thoughtful presence will be dearly missed,” Koontz said. “Though we will probably shed a tear or two together, the tone will be celebratory. There's simply no way to look back on John's life and not be deeply grateful for the ways in which he reflected God's light and love.”