Sunday, December 5, 2010

OLIN J. WIMBERLY

The Epitome of a True Southern Lawyer


Olin J. Wimberly, one of Macon's finest attorneys at the turn of the 20th Century, was born on the Moses Guyton place in the Buckeye District of Laurens County on May 22, 1862. Wimberly was born in Laurens County instead of in his parent's family home county of Twiggs County because the senior Wimberly was serving in the Confederate Army. The Army was about to begin its first major series of battles on the Virginia Peninsula. His father's folks were one of the old and prominent families of Twiggs County. His father, James Lowry Wimberly, was a son of an itinerant Methodist minister, Frederick D. Wimberly. James L. Wimberly, who was educated as an attorney, served as Judge of the Ordinary Court of Stewart County, Georgia for several terms and as a judge of the Superior Court of the Chattahoochee Circuit. Judge Wimberly served as a delegate to the Confederate Electoral College, voting for the country's first and only president, Jefferson Davis. When the war was over, Judge Wimberly was sent to Washington, D.C. as a delegate seeking acceptable peace terms. In 1877, Judge Wimberly was selected as a delegate to form Georgia's new constitution.



Olin Wimberly's mother's people were from two of Laurens County's most prominent families, the Guytons and Loves. Wimberly's mother, Helen Augusta Guyton was a daughter of Moses Guyton. Moses and his brothers, John and Charles, were all sons of Moses and Tabitha Saxton Guyton, who were among the largest plantation owners in the fertile Buckeye District of northeastern Laurens County. Each of the Guyton brothers were prominent in the political and agricultural affairs of the county. Olin's mother, Mary Ann Love Guyton, was a daughter of Amos Love, Laurens County's first Clerk of the Superior Court. Her brother, the Hon. Peter Early Love, was a physician, judge, and a member of Georgia's congressional delegation. The entire delegation resigned their seats in Congress when Georgia seceded from the Union in 1861.



Olin Wimberly was raised on his father's place in Stewart County, Georgia. His family was wealthy enough to weather the storm of reconstruction following the Civil War. Wimberly graduated with first honors from the prestigious Vanderbilt University in 1882 at the age of twenty. His first love was mathematics, which led to his acceptance of a position as a professor of mathematics at Professor's McNulty's college in Dawson, Georgia. While teaching in Dawson, Wimberly met the true love of his life. Wimberly fell in love with Mattie McNulty, one of his students and a daughter of Prof. McNulty, the dean of the college. Upon his reaching the age of majority, Wimberly decided to make a career change and began studying law in his father's law office in 1883. After his admission to the bar at Lumpkin in 1884, Wimberly moved to the city of Macon where he established a practice in 1885 in partnership with Clem P. Steed. Wimberly combined his ability as a teacher with his skills as a lawyer and taught Equity at Mercer Law School for the last decade and a half of his life.



Wimberly was idolized by his contemporaries as "having a boundless capacity for intricate details, prodigious energy and labor in the preparation of his causes coupled with an ability to work out the last analysis of the most abstruse problems of the law." His capacity for work was simply marvelous," said one lawyer, who also said of Wimberly, "that men must have that by nature, they cannot acquire it." Wimberly had an amazing memory, rarely forgetting any details, even the most trivial. His home library was one of the finest in Macon, if not in the entire state. Wimberly was fluent in German as well as an expert in mathematics. He observed photographs of Dr. Frederick Cook, who claimed to be the first man to reach the North Pole. Wimberly calculated the angle of the shadow of a flag pole in the picture and determined that Cook was no where near the pole as he had claimed, a fact which was later determined to be true.



His personal character was impeccable. Wimberly, a true southern gentleman, was a devoted father to his seven children. He cared little for money, except when it was needed for the comfort of his family. His dress was simple - a simple long black coat with a high collar and black bow tie. Arthur H. Codington, in his report to the twenty-seventh convention of the Georgia Bar Association in 1910, heaped one accolade after another on the virtues of this public spirted citizen.



Ninety years ago this week on January 16, 1910, Wimberly went to work in office as he had done for the last twenty five years. Wimberly was having a conversation with E.R. Orr of Dublin in front of the fire place in his office. Without any hint or warning, Wimberly collapsed just after noon. Death was immediate and was determined to be caused by a cerebral hemorrhage. Doctors concluded the hemorrhage was ironically super-induced by tremendous study and mental exertion, the qualities which led to Wimberly's high regard by his peers and friends. Wimberly was funeralized by Rev. W.N. Ainsworth, a former minister of the First Methodist Church of Dublin, and who within the decade would become Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. His body was carried to his grave by his most valued and trusted friends and laid to rest in Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, where old Macon's most prestigious and prominent families are buried. In the days when lawyers were accorded the total respect of the community, Olin J. Wimberly was a lawyer's lawyer and a friend of every client he ever represented. The standards set by Wimberly in his professional and personal life are ones that everyone, not just the members of the legal profession, should strive to attain and maintain.

2 comments:

  1. Each on its own. You can have both in other places too. Attorney Macon

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  2. Dear Scott,
    Thanks for the wonderful profile on Olin J. Wimberly. I've discovered that Men of Mark in Georgia and the Georgia Bar proceedings (with tribute) are now on line through Google Books, and so will be copying them for my family soon. There were a couple of glitches in your article. In one spot you describe Mary Ann Love Guyton as Olin's mother, when she was in fact his grandmother (and mother of Helen Augusta Guyton, Olin's mother). The article also says that Moses Guyton Sr. and Tabitha Saxon Guyton were among the large landholding early settlers of the Buckeye region. All the records I've dealt with so far leave Moses Sr. and Tabitha in the Carolinas, with the three sons, Moses, John, and Charles, as the immigrants to Laurens County. Please let me know if you've found evidence of the parents in Georgia.
    Again, many, many thanks for all you have done and are doing to make the story of Laurens County's people through two centuries available for enquirers today.
    Sincerely,
    Rev. Frank Shipps
    historygardener@yahoo.com

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