Tom Duvall recognized for 50 years of distinguished service

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Tom Duvall, legal counsel for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, has served the state convention and Georgia Baptist churches and pastors for more than 30 years. GERALD HARRIS/Index

DULUTH — Thomas O. Duvall Jr., who serves as general counsel for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation, was recently awarded a certificate of accomplishment to commemorate more than 50 years of service as a member of the State Bar of Georgia.

Duvall is a native of Atlanta and son of Thomas Owen Duvall, Sr. and Doris Shattles Duvall. He was born in the Georgia Baptist Hospital. His father was in the U.S. Army during WWII and Tom indicated that during his dad’s three years in the Army his mother wrote a letter to his dad every day and his dad wrote often to his mother. In fact, Tom has almost 500 letters that his dad wrote throughout his training and fighting in Europe, which his mother kept for decades. In his spare time Tom is transcribing the letters and the history of his dad’s Battalion digitally for his children and grandchildren to have in years to come.

Thomas Jr. was born while his dad was on maneuvers at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod in Massachusetts during WWII. One day while on maneuvers Thomas Sr., sitting in his half-track, was informed via a radio message that a telegram had been received addressed to him. “Do you want the message on the telegram to be read to you over the radio?” he was asked.

Even knowing that everyone in the Battalion would hear the message, he replied in the positive and was informed over his two-way radio that he had a baby boy. That is how Thomas Jr. was introduced to his dad and the troops on maneuvers somewhere on Cape Cod.

The Duvalls are firmly entrenched in Georgia Baptist life. Cliff Duvall, Tom’s uncle, served Georgia Baptist churches, including Piedmont Baptist Church, as pastor for many years. Don Duvall, also an uncle, served as a Georgia Baptist pastor and later became the executive director of the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries. Another uncle, Bill Doverspike, served as a Georgia Baptist pastor at the Baptist Tabernacle in Atlanta and Scott Boulevard Baptist Church.

Although Thomas Duvall Jr. (Tom) has had an effective ministry, he has fulfilled his service to the Lord through his profession as an attorney. He received a B.A. and a J.D. (Doctor of Jurisprudence) at Emory University and shortly thereafter joined the U.S. Air Force as a part of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG).

Tom Duvall received the Bronze Star Medal for his distinguished service while stationed in Thailand with the U.S. Air Force during the war with Viet Nam. GERALD HARRIS/Index

Duvall requested to be stationed on the West Coast and was sent to McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, WA and was there for three years before being send to U-Tapao Air Base in Thailand during the Vietnam war. While stationed at U-Tapao he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service.

While Duvall was at U-Tapao he began to establish a pen pal relationship with a young lady by the name of Jeanie Glenn, from Dallas, TX, who had just graduated from Texas Christian University. The correspondence began when a mutual friend suggested that Jeanie write Tom, who was overseas serving his country.

The long-distance letter writing continued for months and ultimately led to a marriage that has lasted 43 years, producing two children and five grandchildren.

Duvall served four years on active duty in the Air Force, where he was certified as a military judge, prosecutor, and defense counsel and tried over 90 court-martial cases. He concluded his active duty with the rank of Captain. He was in the Air Force Reserves for another 17 years and retired as a Lt. Colonel.

After returning home from U‑Tapao and separating from active duty, Duvall set out to find a job and was directed to Richard Bell, DeKalb County District Attorney. Bell offered Duvall a job as assistant district attorney and wanted him to start on the next Monday. Tom agreed to work for Bell, but requested that his employment not begin until he first had the opportunity to go meet Jeanie Glenn in Dallas, the young woman with whom he had corresponded for quite a while, but whom he had never met. Bell agreed, so just over a week after returning home Tom borrowed his dad’s car and drove to Dallas where he first met Jeanie.

After working as an assistant district attorney for three years, Governor Jimmy Carter asked Duvall to join his staff to study the impact organized crime and drug trafficking was having upon Georgia and make recommendations as to needed legislation.

On May 2, 2018 Tom Duvall was awarded a commemorative certificate for 50 years of service as a member of the State Bar of Georgia. GERALD HARRIS/Index

Duvall worked for Governor Carter for one year and then joined Arthur Bolton, Georgia’s attorney general, as assistant attorney general. After a stint with the attorney general, he returned to the DeKalb District Attorney’s office to head up a major crimes trial team. He later went into private practice starting his own law firm in Decatur.

After building a successful 20-year law practice, Tom merged his practice with the prestigious Arnall Golden Gregory law firm in Atlanta and remained there for a decade.

Duvall first served Georgia Baptists in 1982. He stated, “In 1982 Dr. Jim Griffith arranged for me to fill a one-year unexpired term on the Georgia Baptist Hospital Commission, which was the hospital board. After serving on the Commission for one year I was then elected to a five-year term. I served as the chairman of the finance committee and two search committees and learned a lot about hospital law during that time.

“While serving on the hospital board I let Dr. Griffith know I would like the opportunity to serve Georgia Baptists in a legal capacity, and Dr. Griffith said, ‘Wait for the propitious time.’ In 1988 Dr. Griffith recommended to the Executive Committee that I be named the attorney for the Georgia Baptist Medical Center and the Georgia Baptist Convention. Since then I have been pleased to serve Georgia Baptists in my profession as an attorney for over 30 years.”

In 2008 Duvall left private practice and came to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board to continue his service as general counsel for both the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

Duvall has served Georgia Baptists in some significant ways during the entire 25 years of Dr. J. Robert White’s leadership as the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s executive director. White testified, “Tom Duvall is not only an outstanding lawyer; he is a dear friend. I have been blessed immeasurably by our friendship and very grateful for his daily legal counsel.

“Having an in-house attorney has been so helpful to our pastors and churches across Georgia. He is frequently called for advice and has been able to provide guidance through some difficult circumstances faced by our churches.

White continued, “Tom has a long history as attorney for the Georgia Baptist Health Care System, and subsequently for the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation. He guided us through that complicated transition from an operating health care system to a health care foundation. I also recall Tom’s leadership trough the legal battle to keep Shorter University a Georgia Baptist institution. That case went all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court. As a result of that victory, Tom has been called upon for counsel by other state conventions going through similar situations.

“Not only is Tom Duvall an outstanding attorney,” exclaimed White, “he is a churchman. Through the years, he has served as a deacon and has been a Sunday School teacher for over 30 years.”

Thomas Duvall, Jr. has completed 50 years of service as noted by the Georgia Bar, but his noteworthy service to the cause of Christ is duly recorded in heaven.

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