Family, friends remember former city attorney

Family, friends remember former city attorney
(Source: Raycom Media)

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) -Family and friends are remembering former City of Savannah attorney James Blackburn after he passed away on January 22nd following a brief illness.

Blackburn was born in 1925 in Screven County. He graduated from Rocky Ford High in 1941 at the age of 16. 2 years later, Blackburn braved South Pacific waves to serve his country in World War II as a radarman on a tugboat.

Upon his return to Georgia, Blackburn entered the University of Georgia at the Hunter Airforce Base using funds provided by the GI bill. He married his wife, Mercer Griffith, and the couple moved to Athens. Blackburn studied law, graduating with an LLB in December of 1949.

He began practicing law in Savannah 1950 with Casper Wiseman, and continued to practice until Mr. Wiseman’s death in 1991.

Blackburn served as a role model for his community. He entered the U.S. Naval Reserves in 1950, serving as a full lieutenant until 1967. He was also a member of the Savannah Jaycees during this time. He taught Sunday school from 1950 until his death and was a Deacon and former Chairman of Deacons at Ardsley Park Baptist Church. He was a 32nd-degree mason, as well as a 50+ year member and past president of the Kiwanis Club of Savannah.

He was appointed as Assistant City Attorney of Savannah in 1957, and held that position until Mayor Malcom Maclean appointed him as City Attorney in 1961. He served in that role until 1967. He was reappointed as City Attorney by Mayor John Rousakis four years later. He held that position until 2012.

Blackburn also served as an attorney for the Savannah Pilotage Commission and the Savannah Airport Commission. He semi-retired from law in 2016 but continued to represent the Airport Commission until 2019.

Blackburn received many awards over the course of his life, including the NAACP Freedom award in 1989, the Savannah Bar Association’s Robbie E. Robinson Award for protection of the rights of individuals and the promotion of justice through law in 1997, and the Bar’s Professionalism Award in 2011.

He leaves behind Mercer, his wife of 72 years, two sons, a daughter-in-law, six grandchildren, sister-in-law.

A funeral service will be held Monday at 11 a.m. at Ardsley Park Baptist Church. Blackburn will be buried in the Greenwich Section of Bonaventure Cemetery.

Memorials may be sent to the Ardsley Park Baptist Church at 3802 Bull Street, Savannah, GA 31405 or the Morris Slotin Fund at the Alee Temple, P.O. Box 14147, Savannah, Ga. 31416. Arrangements are in care of Fox & Weeks Funeral Directors, Hodgson Chapel.

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