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B. Avant Edenfield

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B. Avant Edenfield Obituary
Judge B. Avant Edenfield - SAVANNAH - Berry Avant Edenfield, age 80, a native of Bulloch County, Georgia and the community of Stilson, died on Saturday, May 9, 2015 at Candler Hospital of Metastatic Lung Cancer. Born the son of Perry Edenfield and Vera Berry Edenfield, he was a descendent of David Edenfield who was captured by the British in the Battle of Savannah during the Revolutionary War. Judge Edenfield was a graduate of Stilson High School, the University of Georgia, and the UGA Law School. His love of learning began early, and he always gave credit to the Bulloch County Regional Library's traveling bookmobile for giving him a love of reading and learning. Indeed, he later became chairman of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Regional Library, and many of the older employees remembered that little boy at Stilson who always checked out books by the dozens. He stated on occasion that he was in a lifetime struggle with ignorance, and that ignorance seemed to be gaining the advantage. Judge Ednefield was particularly proud of the Stilson community and the pursuit of excellence that he learned there. He captained its State Basketball Championship Team in 1952, and was Georgia's vice-president of the Future Farmers of America. He enrolled at the University of Georgia, earning many scholastic honors. Beginning as a freshman, he was an unpaid tutor of history for the football team. Without ever having played golf, or knowing anything about golf, he convinced the Athletic Department to hire him as a beginning golf instructor. Asked why, he said, I needed the money, and I did not reveal my absence of knowledge about the game of golf. The $60 a quarter paid my tuition. He graduated from UGA Law School and was on the dean's list throughout law school, a member of the Gridiron Secret Society, president of Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity, associate justice of the Honor Court, president of the Demosthenian Literary Society, a member of the Blue Key honor society. He and later-Professor Perry Sentell became study mates and lifelong friends. In 2008 he was awarded the Law School Alumni Distinguished Service Scroll Award. After graduating from law school in 1958, he was inducted into the United States Army, and for the next six years was an enlisted member of the United States Army and the Georgia National Guard. He began practicing law in Statesboro with Francis W. Allen, and the firm later became Allen, Edenfield, Brown and Wright. He practiced for twenty years in all aspects of the law as a trial lawyer before he was appointed to the bench. He was named the Outstanding Young Man of Bulloch County in 1965. He was a founder and charter member of the Statesboro Kiwanis Club, a guarantor of the land purchased by the Kiwanis Club for the Ogeechee Fair. He was selected by the Statesboro Rotary Club in 1978 as Bulloch County Man of the Year. He served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the State of Georgia. In 1964, he was elected to the Georgia State Senate. He served as chairman of the Capital Punishment Study Committee, authoring the majority report that changed dramatically the laws regarding death penalty statutes for the State of Georgia. He also served as secretary of the Higher Education Committee and co-sponsored legislation improving Georgia's higher education and vocational education. He was a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the co-author of legislation creating state-sponsored scholarships for medical, nursing, and dental students who committed themselves to practice in under-served areas. While in the legislator he helped create the Statesboro-Bulloch County Developmental Authority. He returned home and later served with the Development Authority and Chamber of Commerce committee soliciting industries that met with significant success. He was appointed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia in 1978, and became a proud resident of Savannah, Georgia. Chief Judge for seven years (from 1990-1997), he assumed senior status in 2006. He was invited to serve in many different federal courts and traveled extensively trying cases, including in the Panama Canal Zone before the United States ceded its sovereignty. He served on the Eleventh Circuit Judicial Council, was president of the District Judge Association for the Eleventh Circuit, was appointed by Chief Justice Rehnquist to serve on the Judicial Branch Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, served on the Pattern Jury Charge Committee for the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits for approximately twenty-seven years, was a member of the Archives Committee of the Fifth Circuit, the Federal and State Liaison Committee, and numerous other committees for the judiciary and bar. Judge Edenfield credited his mother and father for creating a strong worth ethic. He had a strong love of quality education and lamented the decline of academic standards of excellence in America education. His greatest accomplishment, however, was marrying Melvis Bryant Edenfield in 1963. He was a member of Independent Presbyterian Church, and particularly enjoyed his study of the Bible with the Chatham Bible Studies group. He and Melvis traveled throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Their love of architecture and history continued to motivate their travel. Although they remained childless, he considered his law clerks who have been a source of pride and joy as part of his family. His nieces and nephews and their accomplishments, as well as the accomplishments of many young people who were children of friends and neighbors, were a source of pride. Next to his wife, his brother, Gerald M. Edenfield, was his confidant, advisor, and friend. Surviving are his wife, Melvis Bryant Edenfield of Savannah; brother, Gerald M. Edenfield (Sharon) of Statesboro; sister, Susie Waters of Thomasville; sisters-in-laws, Mildred B. Lord (Minton) and Merle B. Lord of Dudley, GA; brothers-in-law, Joe Bryant (Donna) and Houston Bryant of Cochran, GA; and numerous nieces and nephews. Other than his parents, he was preceded in death by his brothers, Perry H. and Herman L. Edenfield. The memorial service will be held at 3:00 p.m., Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at Independent Presbyterian Church conducted by Reverend Terry L. Johnson and Reverend Ronald H. Parrish. Remembrances may be made to Independent Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 9266, Savannah, GA 31412, Old Fellowship Baptist Church, C/O Ms. Dana Haas, 800 M.P. Martin Rd., Brooklet, GA 31405, Trail Branch Primitive Baptist Church, C/O Mr. Marvin Howard, 1997 Rebie Rd. Cochran, GA 32022. Please sign our online guestbook at www.foxandweeks.com Savannah Morning News May 11, 2015 Please sign our Obituary Guest Book at savannnahnow.com/obituaries.
Published in Savannah Morning News on May 11, 2015
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