Judge John R. Harvey, a lifelong resident of Bryan County, passed away Monday at Hospice Savannah at the age of 73.
Harvey was well respected as an Atlantic Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge for more than 30 years. Before that, Harvey’s accomplishments including serving in the Army and running a successful law firm in Pembroke. Among his clients were Pembroke State Bank, now known as First Bank of Coastal Georgia, the Bryan County School Board, International Paper, Seaboard Railroad, Bryan County, the city of Pembroke and the city of Richmond Hill.
Harvey could often be seen tending to his farm on the Ellabell property he grew up on, located across the street from Lanier Primary School."This is a giant loss to our community," Bryan County Commissioner Toby Roberts said. "Judge Harvey has meant a lot to this community and this community meant a lot to him. He was a southern gentleman and a man’s man, and he set the example for all of us to follow. He could take a bad situation and make a recommendation for a good solution and do it with a wit and humor that made him who he is – in legal situations or any other situations. I feel like I’m a better man for having known him."
Pembroke native and current Atlantic Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Jay Stewart said Harvey’s legal reputation was second to none. He said several years ago when he was an attorney he brought up Harvey’s name to a group of lawyers in North Georgia, "and they instantly began telling me how lucky I was to be working in the same district as Judge Harvey. His reputation of being fair and a pleasure to work with spread well outside this circuit."
Stewart said Harvey was a mentor and father figure to him. He said to meet Harvey was to create an instantaneous friendship "and it carried over to the courtroom. He was much more than a judge to whole generation of lawyers in this area."
His son, Richmond Hill attorney John Harvey, said his father loved Bryan County – where many generations of Harveys have resided.
"And he loved people," John Harvey said. "It didn’t matter if you were the CEO of Home Depot or the guy who swept the floor, my father treated everybody the same. He loved his family too. When I went off to school in Atlanta, dad would drive up every single Friday to see me play football."
Harvey said that since Monday he has received countless calls about his dad from lawyers and judges across the state, "which helps in a time like this. He’s definitely going to be missed in the legal community."
Bryan County lawyer Lloyd Murray called Harvey "the greatest man ever to sit on the bench. He was incredibly fair and exactly what a judge should be. If you met him on the street, you wouldn’t know he was a judge. Just a great man with great character."