The Rotary Club played host to the local bar association, which consists of attorneys and judges from Cherokee County, in honor of Law Day, a national holiday recognizing the importance of law in American society.
Members of the bar association handed out several awards, including the Liberty Bell Award, which they call their “highest honor for a non-attorney,” presented to local radio station owner Byron Dobbs.
Liberty Bell Award winners are chosen each year by a committee, which looks for a specific set of attributes, said Assistant Probate Court Judge John Cline, who presented the award.
“We’re looking for someone who promotes a better understanding of the foundational documents of our country, encourages a greater respect for law and the courts, stimulates a deeper sense of individual responsibility, contributes to the effective functioning of our institutions of government and fosters a better understanding and appreciation for the law,” Cline said while making the presentation.
Cline said it’s a difficult group of standards to live up to.
“Unfortunately, there are too many in our community who do not possess even one of the attributes that we are looking for,” he said, half-jokingly.
But WLJA co-owner Dobbs has them all down, Cline said.
Dobbs is the “local embodiment of what the free press is” and is “widely recognized as ‘the Voice of North Georgia,’” he said.
And he became those things with his roots planted firmly in Cherokee County.
While still attending Cherokee County High School in the late ‘50s, Dobbs got his start in radio at WCHK in Canton.
He stayed there for 40 years and worked his way from gopher all the way up to general manager of the station, Cline said.
Those 40 years were all years of public service, Cline said.
He’s even helped Cherokee County in the event of natural disasters, he said.
“On more than one occasion,” during natural disasters in the county, Cline said Dobbs “saw to it that the radio station stopped playing music and commercials—commercials being the things that pay the bills for the station—and have the radio station function as a means of communication to help restore order and help the people who are affected by (the disaster).”
Cline told the story of a storm some 40 years ago that ravaged the Yellow Creek community in northeast Cherokee County.
Dobbs went live on the air from a hospital in Jasper, as those hurt by the storm were brought in.
Quickly, Cline said Dobbs learned that emergency workers were overwhelmed and needed help getting control of the situation.
So he took to the airwaves, asking his listeners for that help.
“For example,” Cline said. “(Dobbs) would request that someone with a chain saw report to a particular place to clear the roadway so the ambulances could get through.”
BRBA also awarded the Bob Stubbs Award to several now-deceased court bailiffs, Fred Barrows, Bob Stoner and Johnny Nelson.
They also honored two recently retired judges with awards for lifetime achievement. Former Superior Court Judge Frank Mills and State Court Judge C.J. Gober were honored for their achievements.
Keynote speaker for the meeting was Georgia Court of Appeals Judge M. Yvette Miller, who spoke on the significance of Law Day.
This year’s Law Day theme is “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.”
Miller, who is the first African-American woman to ever serve on the Georgia Court of Appeals, told the audience that 2013 is the 150th anniversary of the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
She honored the year by telling those in attendance much the story of her childhood, with the key moment being when she became the first African-American student at a previously “whites-only” school in her hometown Macon. Her mother was also the first African-American teacher there, she said.