Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Monday, March 15, 2010

James Lon Duckworth, Corporation Lawyer

A younger brother to Chief Justice William Henry Duckworth of the Georgia Supreme Court was James Lon Duckworth who also chose a career in law.

James Lon Duckworth was born October 29, 1899 to John Francis (known as Jack) and Laura Jane Noblet Duckworth. He was the fifth child of ten, eight of whom grew to adulthood. When his father died December 26, 1910, Lon was eleven years of age. The family was living on a farm near Old Liberty Church, part of the property where David and Mary Williamson Duckworth had settled. Lon’s lineage went back to early settler David; David and Mary’s oldest child, John Williamson Duckworth who married Susannah Jackson; General Jackson Duckworth who married Celia Emaline Collins, parents of Lon’s father, John Francis Duckworth.

Laura Duckworth was faced with a challenge at age thirty-five when she was left a widow with eight children. For a time she managed on the Choestoe farm, but desiring that her children have better educational opportunities, she moved to Young Harris. She worked hard to keep the children with food and clothing. The children early learned to work hard.

At a young age Lon Duckworth vowed that if he were ever financially able, he would see that his mother had a good house and economic stability. She moved from Young Harris back to Choestoe where she married, second, Joe Townsend, a farmer and miller, and they had thirty years together before his death. She then moved to the Jacksonville community near Young Harris where J. Lon Duckworth helped to provide a comfortable and convenient house for her declining years.

J. Lon Duckworth graduated from Young Harris College in 1920. From there he entered the Emory University Lamar School of Law and graduated in 1923. He spent a year practicing law in Lousiana, but returned to Atlanta where he was in the McElreath and Scott law firm, and soon was made a partner in that firm with the partnership name of McElreath, Scott, Duckworth and DuVall.

The Life Insurance Company of Georgia invited him to become its corporation lawyer and he began work there on January 1, 1942. Through hard work, integrity and vision, he became Vice-President and General Counsel of the company and held that title when he passed away on October 31, 1964 at a farm he owned near Powder Springs, Georgia. Two days before his death, he and his family had celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday.

He taught the Men’s Bible Class at the Druid Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta for many years, and at the Kirkwood Baptist Church as well. He was active in Kiwanis International, serving as Lieutenant Governor of the Georgia District and as president of the downtown Atlanta Club in 1955-56.

His greatest support, however, went to the school that befriended a farm lad eager to get an education and with little money to pay costs. He was on the Board of Trustees of Young Harris College and served as Executive Vice Chairman of the Board.

Less than a month after his death, the Board of Trustees of Young Harris College, meeting in Atlanta on November 12, 1964, passed a resolution honoring the long-time Board member. Citing his “unselfish service to Young Harris College,” the resolution applauded his business acumen in “a path that led ever upward.” Noted also were his “gentleness and humbleness…He never forgot the way he had come; nor did he ever put from his mind the simple faith and beliefs learned from his Christian parents.”

The Duckworth Library at Young Harris College honors James Lon Duckworth and his brother, Chief Justice William Henry Duckworth. Lon’s wife, Ruth and their daughter, Margaret Duckworth Sewell, survived him.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 11, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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