EXTRA, EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT!
Editor Becomes a Judge
Kendrick J. Hawkins spent most of his early adult life writing about judges, their rulings, their faults, their pedigrees and their deeds of public charity. A century ago, the attorney and former editor of the Dublin Times, became the first judge of the newly created Dublin Judicial Circuit.
Kendrick Hawkins was born on July 11, 1870 in neighboring Washington County. His father, William A. Hawkins, served the Confederate States of America during the late war and bore the scars of a grievous wound he suffered at the horrific battle at Chickamauga. His mother, Mary Mayo Hawkins, was a native of the south Georgia county of Dougherty. The Hawkins left Washington County in the mid 1870s, and moved northward to Hancock County.
Kendrick Hawkins' family could hardly be called wealthy. At the age of fourteen, Kendrick was forced to drop out of school and take a job as a printer's devil. That fortuitous happenstance led to his removal to Warrenton, Georgia and later on to nearby Gibson, Georgia, where Hawkins entered the newspaper business at the age of seventeen, making him one of the youngest editors in the history of the State of Georgia.
In one of his earliest assignments, Hawkins became the co-editor of the Tennille Enterprise. By mid-spring of 1890, Hawkins was selected as the sole owner and editor of his native county's second largest paper. Within three months, Hawkins returned to Gibson to take the position as the editor of the Gibson Enterprise-Record. Hawkins' affable personality and ability led to his election as the Mayor of Gibson, one of the city's youngest mayors.
By 1895, Hawkins yearned to expand his horizons. He studied law under Judge B.F. Walker of the Toombs Judicial Circuit of northeast Georgia. His experience as a newspaper writer and editor immensely aided the driven young man to stand before the bar for examination in two short years. Hawkins practiced law in Gibson for some half-dozen years before making a life altering decision to move to the rapidly grown metropolis of Dublin, hanging out his shingle in front of the Pritchett Building, some two years after marrying his bride, Mary Leola McNair.
Hawkins, a hard worker, established a substantial law practice. One biographer wrote, "He had a good reputation as a lawyer. His arguments were always forceful, and his treatment of his cases was so clear and simple that he was seldom involved in useless technicalities." Hawkins returned to his first love when he founded the Dublin Times in 1904.
One tell tale sign of his success came in the 1906 trial of Gus Tarbutton and Joseph Fluker. Hawkins was hired along with Peyton Wade and J.B. Hicks by the State of Georgia to assist the Circuit Solicitor in the prosecution of the defendants for the murder of Letcher Tyre. In those days, state prosecutors were forced to hire highly regarded private assistants to compete against the high priced attorneys hired by wealthy defendants. Mostly assistant solicitors were hired to keep those highly regarded assistants from joining the defense case. The 1906 case eventually died a slow death when the Laurens-Johnson county line was shifted to change the venue to Johnson County court, where the prosecutors and the jurors were more sympathetic to one of their own citizens.
Hawkins' continued success and outstanding reputation among other lawyers led to his appointment as Judge of the City Court of Dublin in December 1908. Hawkins continued to practice law as well as devoting time to his civic duties as an officer of the Citizens League and the Dublin Chapter, Royal Arcanum. Hawkins was also a member of the Knights of Pythias, the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, and the Woodmen of the World. Judge Hawkins saw many opportunities to cash in on the many business opportunities which arose during the zenith of the Emerald City's unparalleled business boom of the 20th Century's first decade. Hawkins invested in the Union Grocery, one of the city's largest groceries. He personally formed the Garage Equipment Company as its founding president in 1909. Ironically, while riding in an EMF roadster, Hawkins and three prominent men were nearly killed when their car flipped over in the sandy road bed of Bellevue Avenue in front of the current Chamber of Commerce building.
In the spring of 1911, Hawkins announced that he would become a candidate of the Oconee Judicial Circuit. Just four months later, his plans were changed when the act creating the Dublin Judicial Circuit was approved by the Georgia legislature on August 18, 1911.
The circuit was originally composed of four counties; Laurens, Wilkinson, Twiggs and Johnson. The circuit would be officially formed on January 1, 1912. But, by the end of the first year, Wilkinson County would ask and receive permission to join the Ocmulgee Circuit. Treutlen County was moved from the Oconee Circuit to the Dublin Circuit in 1958 to compose the circuit's current configuration.
In one of Judge Hawkins' most controversial grand jury charges, the member of the Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks charged the Laurens County Grand Jury to abolish the Elk's Locker, which he deemed to be a place where whiskey was illegally sold and consumed. Judge Hawkins, a staunch prohibitionist, asked the Grand Jury to indict his fellow Elks for their crimes citing that four of five crimes can be directly traced to the demon rum. The charge drew cheers from sincere church folk and the liquor loathing ladies of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. In confounding his friends, Judge Hawkins stated, "It is just as illegal to sell whiskey in a fashionable club room as in the back alley, and that the law was no respector of persons and should be enforced all alike."
In a case of first impression in Georgia, Judge Hawkins was asked to rule on the issue of whether or not a woman may remarry after a divorce and still seek alimony against her former husband. While it was the generally accepted practice to terminate support to a former wife upon her remarriage, the issue had not been directly addressed in state statutes or in common law precedents. In the case of Emma Tharpe vs. C.A. Tharpe, both Twiggs County, Mrs. Tharpe took her ex-husband back to court to force the continuation of her monthly, twenty-five dollar supplements following her remarriage. With no precedents to guide his decision, Judge Hawkins exercised his "common sense" belief that no man should support another man's wife.
On the morning of July 11, 1914, Judge Hawkins was leaving the business section of town. He wasn't feeling all that well. His brother, W.M. Hawkins had just been buried in Atlanta a few days before. In discussing the death of his brother, Judge Hawkins told friends, "I wish when the time should come to cross into the Great Divide; that I go suddenly and without suffering a long period of illness.
It was his 44th birthday and the judge wanted to spend it catching up on some of his reading. All of a sudden, the Judge slumped in his chair. His family rushed to his side. Neighbors futilely came to his aid, but to no avail. He died in just five minutes.
Judge Hawkins was succeeded by William W. Larsen, Sr., who eventually did run against and win the Congressional seat Hawkins once eyed. At the age of forty-four, Kendrick J. Hawkins was a rising star in the judicial ranks. His judicial ability and temperament were ideal for advancement outside the limits of his district. He was going to be a giant in the judicial and political ranks of Georgia.