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Class of 1961

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(Notes posted in the order they were received, with the newest posts on top.)

Percy Wilkins Jr. of Nashville died March 3. He was 83. Percy received his undergraduate degree from East Carolina College. While still in college, Percy married Virginia Ann Reed on Bride and Groom, a nationally televised show on NBC. He received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force and entered pilot training in 1955. Percy was later assigned to Sewart Air Force Base in Smyrna where he worked in the Information Services Office with duties in publications, publicity and community relations. In 1957, he accompanied the troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to integrate Central High School. On release from military service, he entered Vanderbilt Law School and began practicing in Murfreesboro in 1961. In 1963, he moved his practice to Nashville and until his retirement in 2004, practiced real estate law. During his last 21 years practicing law, he was in partnership with his daughter, Christy, as Wilkins & Ivey, Attorneys. Percy is survived by his wife, two daughters and four granddaughters. Posted 3.22.17

Judge Ed Butler was among the winners of the Texas Genealogical College's Texas Hall of Fame Class of 2016 for his work in genealogical studies. Judge Butler has served as a judge at the city, county, state and federal levels.  In his 30 year career as an SAR leader, he was the founder of both the Laredo and Boerne, TX SAR chapters and both the Mexico and Spain SAR societies.  He was also the founder of the Texas Genealogical College. Posted 11.28.16

Judge Edward Franklyn Butler Sr. has written a book, Galvez: Spain—Our Forgotten Ally in the American Revolutionary War (2015, Southwest Historical Press) that highlights Spain’s key role in assisting the United States during the Revolutionary War. Ed is a retired U.S. administrative law judge and lives near San Antonio, Texas. Posted 7.8.15

Lawrence M. Magdovitz (BA’59) of Clarksdale, Mississippi, died May 24. He was 77 years old. A native of Clarksdale, Mississippi he briefly worked in Kentucky after law school before returning home to open the Law Offices of Lawrence Magdovitz in 1962. His law practice spanned 52 years. While he was respected for his legal skills, his true talent lay in the real estate business. Until the day he died, Lawrence was a licensed attorney in Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, and a residential contractor and real estate broker in Mississippi. He bought his first rental house in Clarksdale when he was just 16, using money saved from working at his family’s department store. After his return to Clarksdale in 1962, he began buying rental homes; at one time he owned over 200 homes in Clarksdale. In 1980s, he bought a small commercial building leased to the U.S. Postal Service in Dundee, Mississippi; by 2002, he had amassed a portfolio of several hundred post offices and was second only to the Postal Service itself in the number of post office buildings he owned. In 2010, he bought a Dollar General building, after which he put together another portfolio of commercial real estate. He gave generously to the Boy Scouts and the Institute for Southern Jewish Life and created the Lawrence M. & Kerin C. Magdovitz Foundation. A devoted family man, he married Kerin Northrup Coffey in 1972. Kerin died in 1994; he is survived by their two children and four grandchildren. Posted 6.22.15

Charles Edward Weis Jr. died October 26. He was 78 years old. Charles received his PhD from Arizona State University and taught at Tennessee State University for more than 30 years in the business department. He is survived by five children. Posted 11.4.14

George Salo Stern (BA'59) died July 2. He was 77. George was a prominent family law attorney, active community leader and philanthropist, mentor, scholar, world traveler, sports fanatic, husband, father, Opa and friend to all. Born in Brussels, Belgium in 1937, he immigrated with his parents to Nashville in 1941. George practiced law in Atlanta for 50 years, most of which specializing in family law in the practice he founded, Stern and Edlin. From 1998-1999, he was the National President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. He was the Treasurer of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers from 1991 to 2012, having founded the organization's U.S. chapter. He was one of only 100 members of the American College of Family Trial Lawyers. In 2012 George received The Jack P. Turner Award from the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia for his outstanding contribution and achievement in the area of family law for the past 50 years. Most recently, the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers created the George S. Stern Achievement Award and honored him as the first recipient of an award that will recognize the recipient's accomplishments in the practice of family law. His first wife died in 2000. He is survived by his second wife, Margie Okun, and a large extended family. 7.24.14

The Rev. John E. Hibbard (BDiv'58) died May 7, following a brief battle with cancer. He graduated from Berea Academy then served as a Naval Medical Corpsman attached to the U.S. Marines in World War II. He received his undergraduate degree from Johnson University, Knoxville, before earning his degrees in law and divinity from Vanderbilt. Rev. Hibbard was an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He served student pastorates in Kentucky and Tennessee and was minister of the Eastwood Christian Church in Nashville for 6 years and the First Christian Church of the Beaches for 43 years. After retiring in 2002, he served as interim pastor at the historic First Christian Church of Tampa. He was a long time Rotarian, president of Beaches Rotary, a founding member of Rotary Sunset in Ponte Vedra, and a Paul Harris Fellow. A member of various ministers associations, a founding member of Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry, and for 15 years, was the volunteer chaplain of the early Beaches Hospital. He was a member of Beaches Historical Society and the Ponte Vedra, Marsh Landing, and Sawgrass Clubs. He loved golf and was a founding member of the Saturday Morning DewSweepers at the Ponte Vedra Club. Rev. Hibbard is survived by his wife, Marianne Permenter Hibbard (MA'65); two daughters; a son; and three grandsons. Posted 5.27.14

John R. Fawcett died January 30. He practiced law in New York City and was legal counsel for the sale of Fawcett Publications to CBS in 1976. After retiring from law practice, he moved to Avon, Colorado, where he served on the town council and was mayor from 1996-98. John is survived by his life partner, Helen-Ann Comstock; and four children. Posted 2.14.14

Henry Von SuttonHenry Von Sutton of Memphis, Tennessee, died February 27. He was 80. After a brief stint at Lambuth College, he volunteered for the Navy, serving aboard a destroyer during the Korean War. Discharged as a petty officer 1st class in 1955, he earned his undergraduate degree at Memphis State before earning his law degree at Vanderbilt, where he was a member of the Delta Theta Phi legal fraternity. He was co-chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee, a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, and elector of the Electoral College. While running for U.S. Congress in 1966, he claimed “for every American the right to equal citizenship under the law-equality at the polls, equality at work, equality and fairness in all human dealings. This right, this equality is required not only by the law, but by basic human morality." He was married to the love of his life, Doris Seymour Sutton, for 55 years. He is survived by three sons; a daughter; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Posted 4.30.12

The Hon. Don A. Foster passed away on January 15 after a lengthy struggle with cancer. Don served his country from 1952 to 1954 in the U.S. Army in Korea; he was awarded the Korean Service Medal. In 1957 he graduated from SIU Carbondale with a degree in Zoology. He received his Doctor of Jurisprudence from Vanderbilt Law School in 1960. Upon graduation, he returned to Ridgway and practiced law. In 1962 he was elected Gallatin County Judge. Two years later he was appointed Associate Circuit Judge, and became a Circuit Judge in 1970. He served the citizens of Gallatin County and the Second Circuit for more than 46 years until his retirement in 2008. He is survived by his wife, brother, four daughters, and seven grandchildren. Posted 1.19.12

Alfred H. Knight, prominent Nashville attorney, died October 10, 2011, at the age of 74. Alfred fought for decades to open government to the press and public. For decades, those who needed help were media outlets including The Tennessean and organizations like the Society of Professional Journalists, which awarded Mr. Knight with its highest accolade, the First Amendment Award, in 1984. While Alfred's approach to the law was in his words, “simple,” his accomplishments were monumental, colleagues, family members and former clients said. He helped write laws that require government meetings and records to be open and that protect Tennessee journalists from being forced to disclose information obtained during news gathering. He won cases that forced federal prosecutors to disclose basic information concerning arrests and that led the state legislature to expressly prohibit public bodies from voting by secret ballot. Alfred also authored The Life of the Law: The People and Cases that Have Shaped Our Society, from King Alfred to Rodney King which won the 1997 Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association. He is survived by his sons, his first wife and two grandchildren. His second wife, Ruth Sweet, died of cancer in 1998.

Collis H. White Sr. died March 5, 2010. Collis served as District Attorney in Orange County, Florida. Starting in 1976, he spent the remainder of his career in private practice, focusing on real estate law. He retired in 2006. He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean Conflict. He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Gladys G. White, and four children. Posted 3.27.10

David Louis Simpson III died May 23, 2009, in Memphis. He began his practice of law in Memphis as an assistant city attorney. He was an associate with Larkey Dudley Blanchard and McRae. In 1968 he joined the legal department at Conwood Corporation, where he became Secretary and General Counsel. He retired from Conwood in 2001 after 33 years. David served on the Board of the Memphis Pink Palace for a number of years, acting as its legal counsel and was instrumental in obtaining the museum's IMAX Theater. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Beth, their three children, and six grandchildren.

Judge Jonathan J. Robertson II died October 13, 2008, at his home. Jonathan served in United States Army and then earned a bachelor of science degree from Indiana University in 1954. He served as senior judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals 1971-1997, chief judge of Indiana Court of Appeals 1975-1978, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge 1965-1970, counsel to Indiana General Assembly's House of Representatives 1963, Jackson County prosecuting attorney 1963-1964, and was in private law practice in Seymour from 1961-1964. He is survived by his wife, Virginia Bundy, two sons, a daughter and four grandchildren.

Jon Rickert died June 9, 2008, at his home in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Jon earned his undergraduate degree in business and economics in 1958 from Indiana University, and after earning his law degree at Vanderbilt, he began his 30-year career in the general practice of law in Elizabethtown. From 1968-1972, he served with distinction in the Kentucky General Assembly, representing the 25th District. He was not only voted by the news media as the most outstanding freshman legislator, but he also led the fight in Kentucky's state capital, Frankfort, and in Washington, D.C. to save the Red River Gorge. A dedicated birder and naturalist, Jon wrote the Nature Preserves Act, which established the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, and he served as its chairman from 1976-1988. He acted as special advisor on environmental affairs to Kentucky Governor Julian Carroll and was a member of the Kentucky Environmental Quality Commission. In 1973, he was a founding member of the American Birding Association and he also served as the organization's attorney. In 1978, he wrote and published A Guide to North American Bird Clubs. He was a life member of The Nature Conservancy. Throughout his life, Jon traveled to Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, Nova Scotia, United Kingdom, and all 50 states on birding trips. In 2004, he was selected by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to join the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker search team in the swamps of Arkansas for a two-week expedition. Jon is survived by his wife, Bobbie, their son and two daughters, and five grandchildren. 

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