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Verner Franklin Chaffin


1918 - 2018
Verner Franklin Chaffin Obituary
Verner Franklin Chaffin, Fuller E. Callaway Professor Emeritus of the School of Law, and longtime resident of Athens, died at his home on April 27, 2018. The son of Emory Franklin Chaffin and Mabel Verner Chaffin, he was born September 26, 1918, in Martin, Georgia, and grew up in the nearby community of Toccoa. He was active in the Boy Scouts of America, earning the rank of Eagle Scout, and was valedictorian of his high school class in 1935.

An alumnus of the University of Georgia, he received his undergraduate degree, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1939, and earned his law degree summa cum laude from the University's School of Law in 1942. He was Commander of Sigma Nu fraternity, a leader of the Interfraternity Council, a member of Demosthenian Literary Society and Phi Delta Phi, and elected to Omicron Delta Kappa, Sphinx, Blue Key, and Gridiron.

Following graduation, Chaffin was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy and undertook intensive Japanese language instruction, serving in World War II in Naval Intelligence under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, in the Pacific Theatre. He was later called up from U.S. Naval Reserves to active service in this same capacity as a linguist in Occupied Japan during the Korean conflict.

After the end of World War II, he served as a staff attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. In 1947, he embarked on his 42-year career in legal education, as a faculty member at the University of Alabama School of Law, where he taught for a decade. In 1957, he returned to his alma mater, as professor of law at the University of Georgia's Law School, and was appointed Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Law in 1969. During his tenure at UGA, he completed graduate study and earned the Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.) degree from Yale University in 1961. He retired from active teaching in 1989, having served his colleagues as chair of Admissions Committee, Dean Search Committee, and the Law School Faculty Council.

A popular and engaging professor, Chaffin taught generations of future lawyers and enlivened and animated the often inscrutable areas of wills, trusts, and estate planning, and future interests. He authored books and numerous articles in these areas of law.

He was a certified labor arbitrator in the Southeastern U.S. and was frequently appointed as a Friend of the Court, serving as an expert witness.

In 1989, Chaffin was recognized by the Law School Association for his commitment to furthering the mission of the school with its Distinguished Service Scroll Award. He served as secretary of the Law School's Alumni Association for 29 years. He has been recognized for his contributions to the legal field by receiving the Author's Court Award for Outstanding Legal Writing by a Member of the State Bar of Georgia and being the first recipient of the Verner F. Chaffin Career Service Award established in 2000 "in recognition of a distinguished career of outstanding, unselfish and dedicated service to the Fiduciary Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia, its members and the citizens of Georgia." In 2012, he received the American Law Institute's 50-year membership medallion for his longstanding service to this prestigious legal education society.

His students continue to honor him with their legacy alumni gifts in his name to the Georgia Law Alumni Fund and the Verner F. Chaffin Society. Chaffin, along with his wife Ethel, established the Verner F. Chaffin Chair in Fiduciary Law as well as the Verner F. Chaffin Endowment Fund, which recognizes student academic excellence in fiduciary law. At the time of his death, Chaffin was a Life Member in the American Law Institute, and held memberships in the Georgia Bar Association, Georgia's Western Circuit Bar Association, and the American Bar Association.

During his long life in Athens, Verner Chaffin was involved and engaged in his community. He served as Elder in the First Presbyterian Church for many years, and with his wife Ethel coordinated the Town and Gown Community Concert Series. He was a member of the Athens City Club, Athens Country Club, Athens Historic Preservation Society, and the Northeast Georgia Council of the Boy Scouts of America - from which he received its first Lifetime Achievement Award two months before his death.

He is survived by his wife of 74 years, Ethel Tison Chaffin; daughter Ethel Chaffin Simonetti and son-in-law Vincent Simonetti, of Durham, North Carolina; daughter Mary Chaffin and son-in-law Lance Murty, of Portland, Oregon; son V. Frank Chaffin and daughter-in-law Mary Wynn Chaffin, of Cashiers, North Carolina; and son John Chaffin and partner Elliot Pilshaw, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is also survived by five grandchildren: Pamela Chaffin, Daniel Murty, Gregory Chaffin, Jonathan Chaffin, and Carlos Chaffin.

Verner Chaffin will be remembered for his generosity of spirit, his age-transcendent playful humor and wit, along with his keen legal prowess and intellectual discipline. He will be remembered for joyfully maintaining connections with others and for his social and professional engagement with the Athens civil and legal community, his native Georgia, across the South, and beyond.

Visitation will be 6:00 - 8:00 pm, Monday, April 30, at Bernstein Funeral Home. Service will be held at 2:00 pm, Tuesday, May 1, at Athens First Presbyterian Church. Burial will follow at Oconee Hill Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to support the Verner F. Chaffin Chair in Fiduciary Law.

Bernstein Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Chaffin, Verner Franklin
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from Apr. 29 to Apr. 30, 2018
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