October 9, 2019

President’s Address:

ABPLA President

I just returned from Albany, Georgia, where I witnessed our past president, Tommy Malone, being laid to rest. It was one of the most celebratory, but yet very sad, ceremonies I have ever been through.

Wonderful eulogies were given by Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, as well as by William D. Underwood, President, Mercer University.

I thought in this month's President's Address it would only be appropriate to share Tommy's obituary with you:

‘Thomas "Tommy" William Malone, Sr., entered into Paternal Life on October 1, 2019, after a long and courageous battle with cancer that he never quit fighting.

Tommy was born into this life on November 2, 1942, in Albany, Georgia, to Judge Rosser Adams Malone and Petrona "Tony" Underwood Malone. The son of a prosecutor who became a judge, Tommy dreamed of being a rodeo cowboy, auctioneer, blacksmith or farrier. Despite his earliest ambition to ride bucking horses in rodeos, Tommy completed his education in the Dougherty County Public Schools and attended the University of Georgia from 1960 to 1963. From there he went on to attend the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He was admitted to the Georgia bar in 1965, a year before he graduated from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University in 1966.

After graduating from law school, Tommy returned to his hometown of Albany to begin his legal career as a trial lawyer by joining his father’s law practice. Within a few years, Gov. Carl Sanders appointed Tommy's father Director of the State Game and Fish Commission and Tommy founded Malone Law. This was the beginning of Tommy's career as a tenacious legal pioneer. As a pioneer in those days, Tommy was one of very few willing to represent regular people against the rich and powerful establishment which resulted in many losses at trial. Early in his career, after a particularly devastating medical malpractice loss for young paralyzed girl that would have made many lawyers quit, Tommy enlisted the help of the famed "King of Torts", Melvin Belli to partner with him in another suit against the pharmaceutical company which resulted in the largest settlement yet seen in South Georgia. Mel told Tommy he was the best lawyers you've ever seen in the courtroom.

Tommy either believed what Mel told him or didn't have the heart to let Mel be proven wrong and, as a result of that and what he called the "Guiding Hand" in his life, Tommy went on to launch a career of obtaining record-setting recoveries for the families of those severely injured or killed in preventable disasters occurring in hospitals, on the highways, and on the airwaves. Throughout his 50-year legal career, Tommy earned a nationwide reputation of having the highest standards of character and integrity, skill in the courtroom, and an incredible talent to simplify, solve, and explain the most complicated and complex problems. If he believed a case had merit, he feared nothing and fought until the very end. He was considered a giant in the legal arena by his peers.

In addition to being a legal giant, Tommy was a leader in numerous state, national, and international legal organizations. He was a past President of the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys, the Southern Trial Lawyers Association, the Melvin M. Belli Society, and the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. He was also honored to be included as a Fellow in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and the International Society of Barristers, which are reserved and limited to the 500 most elite trial lawyers in the United States and abroad. Tommy was included in the annual listing of the Best Lawyers in America every year for the last 30 years and he was honored as a Super Lawyer every year since the inception of Super Lawyers and was voted by his peers as the number one Super Lawyer in Georgia for the 10 years in a row until his retirement.

Among his many professional awards and honors, the two Tommy was most proud of receiving are both from the Southern Trial Lawyers Association, the coveted "War Horse Award" and, the one named in his honor, the "Tommy Malone Great American Eagle Award". In 2018, the famed author Vincent Coppola together with the Mercer Press, produced a best-selling biography of Tommy Malone's lifetime of making a meaningful difference for others entitled, "Tommy Malone, Trial Lawyer, And the Light Shone Through... The Guiding Hand Shaping One of America's Greatest Trial Lawyers”.

Tommy not only served his clients in the legal profession, but also his community including the Carter Center Board of Counselors, Shepherd Center Foundation Board of Trustees, where he and Debbie were honored with Angel of the Year Award, and the Mercer University Board of Trustees. He served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Mercer 2015-2017 and has been an ardent supporter of Mercer Law School, endowing the Tommy Malone Distinguished Chair in Trial Advocacy at the law school.

Of his many accomplishments and successes, Tommy was most proud of marrying his life partner, Debbie, the love of his life, his soulmate, closest friend and companion. Their chance encounter in a grocery store bloomed into one of the greatest love stories ever told. Tommy believed his success in his life and career would not have been possible without Debbie's love, understanding, and support. They spent 34 years adoring each other, and their love radiated to everyone around them. They're 32-year marriage mirrored that of what fairy tales are made of; she, his princes, and he, her prince charming.

When Tommy wasn't working, he was with Debbie, traveling, entertaining, deep sea fishing and adding new chapters to their love story. Tommy was known as the life of the party. Together, he and Debbie were most known for their generosity and epic soirées. For decades, their Bahamian estate, Snapper Point in Marsh Harbour on Abaco Island, was the scene of once-in-a-lifetime memories for their family, friends, colleagues, and even mere acquaintances. Everyone who knew Tommy knew the only place to find him during the month of May was with Debbie and their Pomeranians on the 70-foot Striker aptly named "Justice," fishing the crystal-clear waters of the Bahamas. Tommy and Debbie loved to travel to many of the Bahamian Islands fishing, exploring and making lifelong friends that they would meet along the way.

Tommy is remembered as a man who was larger-than-life, had an infectious smile, an incredible sense of humor, a fertile mind and integrity like no other. His last days were spent as he had lived - captivating the many who flock to visit him with his quick wit and unparalleled charm.

Tommy is survived by his loving wife, partner, and helpmate of 32 years, Debora "Debbie" Blankenship Malone. He is also survived by his two sons of whom he was most proud, Tommy Malone, Junior, and Adam alone. Adam was deeply honored and felt privileged to a practice lock together as a father/son team with his dad for 16 incredible years. He is proud to be continuing his father's legacy and the work they did together with Malone Law in making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Tommy is also survived by four grandchildren – Maddie, Emilie, Rosser, and Kennedy. Tommy was preceded in death by his parents, Tony and Rosser Malone, and his brother, Ross Malone.” 

As you may recall the ABPLA established the Tommy Malone Distinguished Service Award in 2017 to honor the consummate professional who demonstrates the highest level of ethical conduct, civility, and professional competence in the practice of law. Not only does this honor the recipient but guarantees that Tommy’s light continues to shine upon our profession.


I do note, that as Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes delivered his eulogy, he mentioned that Tommy was his best friend. Later in the evening as the group assembled at one of Tommy's favorite restaurants in Albany Georgia, I stood up and noted that there probably wasn't one that attended the service that did not believe themselves to be Tommy's best friend. That was the beauty of Tommy Malone. He was all of our best friend. May we all be blessed to have known him.



Randall H. Scarlett
Scarlett Law Group
536 Pacific Avenue
Barbary Coast Building
San Francisco, CA  94133